No, I'm not in absolute love with my writing, if that's what you're thinking, and that's exactly why I wanted to write this post, because of daily struggle with the voice shouting in my head YOUR WRITING SUCKS YOUR WRITING IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. It gets the better of me sometimes, and I'm sure it does the same to you. Lately, though, while writing IRKADURA, I started feeling a little better. Like, for example, when I'm asked to read my work out loud, and when I'm reading from SIREN SUICIDES, I often cringe, wanting it to be better. Now, when I recently read an excerpt from ROSEHEAD in front of folks at a book fair, I felt better. I was astounded, I actually didn't cringe as much. I'm reading what I wrote from IRKADURA every night to my boyfriend (we switched the routine, it used to be him reading to me, but this book has many Russian words on which he stumbles) and, guess what, I'm starting to like it. Seriously, I'm starting to like the way it sounds. I hope maybe on my 10th book I'll like my writing even more. But before I go deeper into this topic, let me post a quote by Ira Glass, the quote that actually my darling daughter sent me, several years ago, when I was starting to write, and it saved me from quitting many times.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” ― Ira Glass
Write the first thing that comes to mind, EVEN IF YOU HATE IT. All right. I haven't written 20 books yet, or even 10, to be looking important enough to give you this advice, but I'm on my 3rd, and damn, it's so much easier now. So here is the deal. Many people are asking me how to start. Like, how to decide what to write about, how to even put down this first sentence, how to choose between the ideas that come to their heads, and so on. The answer is very simple, and it came to me recently. Just write the first thing that pops in your brain, like, literally, the stupidest craziest line you think it is, write it down. The thing with writing is, it's like pulling a string of pearls out of a pile of shit, pardon the analogy. But you have to have a pile of shit first, to rummage in. So you dump stuff. You dump it and you dump it and you dump it, and you keep dumping, meaning, you keep writing every day, every single day, even if it's a little bit. No matter. Keep at it. You will eventually break into the real story you're trying to tell, but it will take a while at first, because you have no training to separate the real from fake. There will be a lot of fake stuff, out of fear. It will sound too immature, too stupid to you, too whatever... insert your favorite reason here. DO NOT LET IT STOP YOU. Remember, you will rewrite this later in subsequent drafts, so don't worry about your first draft being not perfect.
Finish your story, EVEN IF YOU HATE IT. This is an order. Like, I will find out where you live and come with a trained hippo to your door and make that hippo open its maw and scare you shitless and bite you. Many beginning writers get stuck in rewriting. They keep trying to make their story better, and it might take them months, years, decades. Yes, somebody wrote to me once that it took that person 12 years or so to their first story. Please, don't do that. You have to write your story, finish it, and move on. Your next story will be better, your next one will be even better, and so on. Why do you have to move on? Because you need to break out of the style and the characters and the flow you put yourself in. Once you get the ideas down on paper, they take on a certain shape, your characters start doing certain things, saying certain things. Sometimes it's impossible to make them change no matter how many times you try to rewrite your story. Don't. Write it to the very end, to what feels like an end, and start another one. You will write it differently, trust me, because you have learned something new. And that's the deal with writing many books, it will allow you to grow and to start seeing that string of pearls in a pile of shit.
Read like crazy and finish reading every book, EVEN IF YOU HATE IT. In case you forgot, reading should be as much of your daily writing routine as writing is. You have to read a lot and write a lot, to make it as a writer. Reading helps you learn, you can see how others are doing it, you soak it up, and your next book you try new things, either picked up from the books you read, or inspired by them, or being influenced by them. Whatever it is, it's all good stuff. But, here is the deal. Make sure you finish reading every book you pick up, because you will learn from it as a whole. How did they start it? How did they end? What feeling did you get out of the whole thing? How do you usually start your novels? How do you usually end them? Reading whole books helps you seeing whole stories in your head, and it's only by seeing complete stories that you would be able to hold whole stories in your head while writing, no matter how much plotting and planning you do.
Really, the only thing I want to leave you with is this. WRITE A LOT. Write, write, write. Write through bad days, write through good days, write through days you're sick, keep writing. Ira Glass says to set a goal of writing a story a week. Awesome, do that, if you want. I have a different goal that I picked up from Stephen King's ON WRITING. I don't let myself out of my writing cave until I write at least 2,000 words. Often I write more, of course, because I get carried away. So, pick a target, and stick with it. Happy writing. xoxo