Wednesday, February 2, 2011


It’s all been said before. A hundred times, a thousand times, and yet my mind circles back to the same topics, the same concerns, the same thoughts. I worry that writers are putting the cart before the horse. I worry that they aren’t spending enough time on the craft of writing. I’m guilty. When I first started blogging in about 2003ish, my writing time dropped to almost zero. I often wonder if I would have written my first book if the Internet had existed back then, but that’s another topic for maybe another day or never.

Writing is all about time.

There are no shortcuts.

I’ve been writing for thirty years (what?), and I still have so much to learn. You never get there, you never reach that place where you can sit back and say this is how it’s done, now I know and I can go forward and do it. The uncertainties are always there. You do this, then you close your eyes and open them again to see how it looks. You rearrange. You toss out, and start over. (But too much tossing out is another form of procrastination. Anything can be fixed.)

Four years. That’s what I think it takes. Four years of writing every day, submitting, getting feedback, revising, rewriting, starting a new project, putting an old one under the bed, pulling it out again, seeing the mistakes you made when you were young and foolish three months ago.

It’s hell. Especially for a lazy person like me.

A bachelor’s degree takes four years. And then you might go on to get your masters and a Ph.D.

Time. You have to invest the time. There are no shortcuts.

“I just lost my job and need to learn how to write a book fast. Where do I begin? I need to start making money in a couple of months.”

Yes, I get emails like this. But I’m not talking about this person.

And yet it is about him, because this is about time. The more time you spend learning the craft of writing, the better your writing will be. The more time you spend writing that book, the better it will be. As simple as that.

I grew up in the world of romance writing. In the eighties and nineties there was a real push by editors, agents, and writers to get books out as quickly as possible. Publishing houses noticed the writers with the biggest readerships were also the writers with the most books published in a year. So it turned into quantity over quality. Some writers could do both, but not many. We were always thinking about the next book before we even finished the current project. We didn’t have the luxury of time.

It took me a while to get myself out of that mindset, and I think a lot of genre writers are still struggling to step back and give themselves permission to make their current project the best it can be. We didn’t grow up like that. We wrote it in a few months and we mailed it in, very often with no feedback from anyone. Maybe take a day off before jumping into the next book, always that need to hurry, hurry, hurry.

Part of it is just age. I can’t write with that kind of intensity and fervor and drive anymore. I want to enjoy writing. I want to savor it. And sometimes I do.


  1. "But too much tossing out is another form of procrastination."


    I have trashed so many words, so many pages. Never wanted to look at it as a form of procrastination, but I see that it is.

    And sometimes I wish I'd never started blogging. I enjoy the outlet, but I think if I'd spent all those moments working instead that I'd be published by now.

  2. yes! i think that could be true about you and tossing out. i loved the material you sent for my example edit, but i felt my comments stopped you dead in your tracks and were maybe overwhelming.

    on the positive side of blogging, i think it has helped me organize my thoughts and maybe helped me become a better communicator. i made the mistake of letting it take over. and i think it gives unpublished writers a sense of being there so the drive isn't what it would be if they were working in semi-isolation.

    that need to be read is already being satisfied with a blog.

  3. I don't think I get overwhelmed with critique as much as I get stalled by my lack of planning. If I don't write every day, I lose momentum, train of thought, etc. I think the only way a pantser can survive is to write through it, whatever it may be, and I don't always do that. I social network instead.