Thursday, January 27, 2011

When Writing is Hard: Guest Blog by Melissa de la Cruz

When Writing is Hard

Rick Riordan, the mega-selling author of the Percy Jackson series, has a fantastic post about the myths of writing. Go read it.

I wish I had written that post. Rick says everything every writer feels. He speaks for us all.

I love being a writer, and I love that I get paid from telling stories, that I spend my days playing. When I'm writing, I'm in the world of the story, my books are an escape for me as well, and it's the best feeling in the world.

For the most part, writing is not work—until it is—oh god, the grind that settles once the wheels are turning and you have to make the book work!—In fact in my household, when I was writing Witches of East End—I thought it would never end, as the book did not have an ending—for such a long time. I had an ending in mind, but it did not fit the story and so I had to keep digging to figure out what the true ending was. A month after I finished, my family is still suffering from Post-Traumatic-Writing-Disorder, my husband cannot look at that book without wincing, knowing how much we all suffered to make it happen. I lived under constant stress, I had headaches, I yelled at everyone, my eye twitched like crazy. Books demand their pound of flesh. They demand that you pay attention to them, that you neglect the ones you love, that you push everything to the very limit—your health, your sanity, until they get done and the story is told correctly.

While I was writing Witches, when I wasn't in front of the computer writing, I was walking around wild-eyed, my hair a fright, my fingernails ragged, because certain parts of the book kept eluding me, kept bothering me, kept nagging at me—and I lived in terror and fear that this time, with this book, I would not be able to fix it.

When I was not writing the book, I was breaking down the plot with my husband, I talked about the book CONSTANTLY. I kept talking and talking, explaining why this was working and why this was not, until I finally reached the EUREKA! Moment. The Eureka Moment happens when you grab hold of an idea that fixes the book and makes the story work. It's the kernel of the story—the discovery of the story you are actually writing, and then everything falls into place from there. That one great idea saves your butt, I mean, your book.

Writing is hard. The creative process is a mystery. Writing is a puzzle and an exercise, it takes over your life, it takes your family hostage, and as for a social life, forget about it. If only it was something that could be taught in school, but it is not. You can teach grammar, you can teach structure, you can teach formula. But you can't teach EUREKA! You can only experience it for yourself. I wish you all the grit to get to the place where you have struck gold in your story, because what's on the other side is better than a rainbow. It's a happy editor and a finished book. Good luck!

*Thank you SO SO much Melissa. We have loved reading and featuring your books on the blog, and love the writing advice! It is particularly helpful for me right now! Readers, be sure to check in tomorrow for my review of Melissa's new collection of short stories in the Blue Bloods world, BLOODY VALENTINE!


Sara B. Larson said...

Great advice, and Rick's post was absolutely amazing, too. Thanks for the guest post!