Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blog Chain - Ch Ch Changes

Howdy!  We've got another blog chain for you, this time brought by Mr. Awesome himself:  Eric.  He wants to know:

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of being a writer? What is your greatest reward from writing?

I think the most challenging aspect of being a writer may actually be answering this question!  Kidding.  Promise.  Really though, for me the toughest aspect of being a writer is the collaborative nature of the biz.  One of the ways I get through writing a draft is by telling myself that it's the best story every written by anyone on the planet.  Sitting down day after day, week after week, month after month to work on a book takes heavy amounts of self-delusion.  I mean, who'd sit down to work on a book for that long if they thought no one would like it?  So to finish, I have to delude myself.  I have to believe that I'm writing the best, most important book EV-ER.

The challenge comes when my crit partners, friends, agent, editors read it and shatter my delusion.  Sure, it's got promise but here's how it could be better...  Then my job is to take all those different viewpoints, all the suggestions, and somehow figure out how to make them work with my vision of the book.  Sometimes it doesn't always work.  Sometimes it's frustrating.  But that's the nature of publishing.  Books aren't created in vacuums.  For example, in Deathday I resisted the idea of making Ollie and Ronnie's relationship more prominent.  I eventually grew not only to see the logic of the change but to love the way the relationship deepened Ollie's character development.  But it's not always that easy.  Sometimes it's a struggle to overcome the delusion that my book is perfect just how it is and take others' advice to make it better.

The greatest reward has to be the people I've met.  There are people whom I've never met in real life, that champion my work and talk about it and sometimes I'm so embarrassed when they say things that I don't know what to do.  There are people on the Internet that I've never even spoken to who read my book and talk about it and they get it...they get exactly what I was trying to say.  That slays me every time.  But the absolute most rewarding thing is when I get emails from people telling me how much the book meant to them.  I got this one email that left me smiling for a week.  I always said that I didn't want to be famous, I didn't need to sell a million copies (though my agent and editors would be really happy if I did), I just wanted something I wrote to speak to one person.  Seriously, that's the best reward.

Right!  So you're a dolt if you haven't already read the ever-amazing Michelle's greatest challenges and rewards, and an even bigger dolt if you don't head over to Abby and her amazing technicolor blog tomorrow.



  1. Great answer, Shaun. Oh, and count me among those who voluntarily champion your book. Not only was it one of the best examples of characterization I've ever read (throughout the whole book), but it completely captivated my 16 year old so that he read it in almost one sitting. You hit the mark dead center. Someday however, I hope to change the fact that we've never met in person. That would be too cool for words :)

  2. Everyone should read this post.

    I don't think people realize the difference in writing for yourself and writing for an audience.

    Those who write for themselves never have to face the idea that what they have created may not be the most brilliant literary work on the planet.

    But when you step out on that limb to have your story critiqued, beware.

    Great post!

  3. Writers need tough egos to cope with the challenges of writing (especially when it comes to edit time), but we can't let our egos get to our heads--or our writing. It may be a struggle sometimes, but it sounds like you're doing well! And congratulations on the e-mails! It is very rewarding to connect with another person through your writing.

  4. Eric- Awww :) Thanks! Hey, if I'm ever in your area, definitely that'd be awesome.

    Kat - I totally agree. I actually find that it's easier for me to write if I tell myself I'm only experimenting and have no intention of showing a book to anyone.

    Sandra- Seriously. You need the ego when you're actually writing but have to be able to let it go when you start revising.

  5. I agree with Kat. Everyone SHOULD read this post. There's a lot of inspiration here - and boy was I needing it :)

  6. It is very hard, isn't it, to hear that "It's a great story, but..." thing. Before INCONVENIENT was called that and I heard "It's such a great story. I love x y z. You're awesome blah blah" and then "BUT...laundry list of revisions" you think, "But, but, but you LIKED it!! Why the but?"

    Thank you for reminding me about never wanting millions and just to connect to have the book mean something to someone.... That's the path I was on too...

  7. Ha! Here, I thought I was the only one sitting down writing the next great novel. Kidding. I get knocked down to size quite often.

    The thing is I'll readily admit to getting downright pissed off and stomping around the house. I also know enough to calm down and take the critisism to heart and read between the lines.

    I would say 9 times out of 10, the changes did indeed improve what I wrote. I just like having mini temper tantrums and meltdowns (winks).(Hugs)Indigo

  8. And that would be criticism. Apparently I don't like spell-check today. (Hugs)Indigo

  9. Aw, getting emails from your readers must be such an awesome feeling!

    There is an author's note at the beginning of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn where she talks about being lonely before she was published, and only receiving bills in the mail, and how happy it made her to have a full mailbox after publication, with people saying how her book had touched them.

    Read that book in my early teens, but that author's note always stuck with me.

  10. I dude, I think the people I've met are the best thing ever too!

  11. Oh, Shaun, I totally agree with you on both accounts--it is a challenge when you're being told all the places you fell short. BUT there is great joy and camaraderie among my writer friends that I really think only other writers can understand.

  12. Okay, I just found my new mantra - self-delusion is the key LOL Seriously, that is beyond true! It is crippling to try and write when you compare yourself to all the amazing writers out there. I've got to imagine myself as one of them or I'd never get through a project (and is one of the reasons it takes me so long sometimes). Excellent post!

    (and I may have to use part of it for one of my quote days :D Love it!)

  13. Yes, I think if you're going to be a writer, you HAVE to have delusions of grandeur. Otherwise, you'd never finish writing a book, you'd never get past all those critiques, and you'd never have the confidence to query. If you don't believe your work is awesome, then no one else is going to believe it either!! Great post. :)

  14. Great post!!! I have to agree that one of the greatest rewards to writing is the people I've met as well! I've made some true bosom friends during this process and that's more valuable than any contract! :)


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