The hardest part of writing
Compiled by Jade Craddock
The best authors make writing look like the easiest thing in the world. And you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all speedy drafts and flowing words. So here we’ve asked five authors what is the hardest part of writing for them and how they tackle it. ♥
Kathryn Cushman (Finding Me)
The hardest part of writing is finding a new, interesting idea. This is closely followed by the dreaded first draft. After that, it’s all sunshine and roses—uh, mostly. I usually start off with some vague notions for new stories, and I throw a handful of these at my editor. His response is generally somewhere along the lines of, “None of these really work.” So I try again, and again, and again. Once we finally agree, I still bang my head against the keyboard in despair as I attempt to grow my little seed into a viable story. Some days the writing flows fast, but it never “feels” like it’s working in this early stage. I try to hack out a first draft as fast as possible in order to reach the end of this madness, but it still takes several months. Once I finally finish the first draft and reread it, I’m always surprised that I actually kind of like it. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of holes to fill, lots of contradictions to fix, lots of characters to deepen, but once I get to this point I breathe a deep sigh of relief.
Gina Henning (How to Bake the Perfect Apple Pie)
One of the hardest things to tackle while writing is emotions. There is a difference between reading a bunch of words and experiencing a moment in a story. Which comes down to feelings. Feelings, show me the feelings. I’m like Jerry Maguire when I’m editing my books. I have to feel something. I want to laugh or at least smile. Not that I’m a fan of tears but I’ve enjoyed a good all-day-long cry fest with a book. The Fault in Our Stars, I’m looking at you. Anger, sometimes characters do some really dumb things or things that make me cringe. And even though I don’t like it, I leave it in because one, that is the way the story goes and two, I felt something. As I write I really get into the story. I learned a new tip this past year about writing. SKIP THE DETAILS. I put this in all caps as it’s how I mark my manuscript. I type “DETAILS” and I keep going with the emotions and show what’s going on in the story and how my characters are feeling. I can return later and add what they were wearing in case any Joan Rivers fans might be reading and need to know a brand name or something. Now, I’m not saying details aren’t important. But some things aren’t necessary and too much detail can actually pull the reader out of the moment versus making them fall deeper into the story. And if all else fails I take a sip of my Cabernet and at least accomplish some good wine wanderings of the mind.
Jane Linfoot (The Vintage Cinema Club)
For me the hardest thing about writing has to be keeping up my self-belief – unless, like today, the sun is out, and I’m desperate not to be stuck inside. For crises of confidence it helps me to know that they are part of being a writer. Realising that every author has them, and viewing them as a badge of honour makes them less scary. On days when every word I type looks like rubbish, I force myself to keep going. Having done this before, I trust that however bad it feels today, it will usually look a whole lot better in the morning. As for sunny days, I arm myself with a parasol and my Ray-bans, ignore that I can barely see the screen, and write in the garden. The double bliss of warmth on my skin and fresh air transfers straight onto the page, and more than compensates for the typos and the eye strain. For times when it’s crucial to see the screen clearly, I have installed a piece of overhanging worktop in my tiny kitchen, just big enough to fit in my knees and my laptop, so I can sit in a sun splash, and write by the open door. That definitely helps.
Zoe Miller (A Question of Betrayal)
One of the hardest parts of writing a book is getting started. There is a certain terror brought on by the blank page that gives me the urge to switch off the laptop and polish the bathroom tiles or scour the cooker from top to bottom.But the most difficult part is often when I have reached a word count of around 60,000 – 70,000 words, and my inner critic steps up to the microphone with a variety of disparaging remarks; This is not the story it’s supposed to be! What makes you think this is any good? Who’d want to spend time reading about these characters? Or this plot? For inner critic read self-doubt: It can strike at any time, but it’s often loudest when you’re a long way out from the start of the book with an equally long way to travel before the end is in sight and it can make life very difficult indeed. I ignore the temptation to clean the cooker or the bathroom. Instead I find it useful to print what I have written already and read the hard copy somewhere away from the writing room. The parts of the story that make my heart beat faster give me the encouragement to continue. I jot down any improvements needed but keep them for the next draft. The trick is to avoid tinkering for now, put on some music to drown out the inner critic, and keep going until I reach The End!
Stacey Wiedower (Now A Major Motion Picture)
As busy as life is right now, the hardest part of writing is making time to do it. It’s ridiculous, really, because I enjoy writing fiction more than any other single thing in life. And yet life has this way of creeping in and stealing time away for things both important, like meeting work deadlines, being at my son’s games and spending time with friends, and mundane, like doing laundry, buying groceries and sleeping. (Yes, I consider sleeping mundane! I’d much rather write all night.) I had this mentor, a creative writing professor whose workshop I attended several years back, who offered this advice: “Don’t think of writing as the activity you have to make time for. You make time for the other activities.” I try to live by those words. It also helps me to schedule my writing time – actually put it on a calendar, treat it like any other appointment and make it routine. Being in a habit of writing regularly, for me, is the key.