May 10th, 2015 by Kimberly
I have neglected my blog dreadfully these past couple of months, but I assure you, dear readers, I have indeed been writing. I finished one book and began another. It’s actually been an incredibly productive few weeks in my writer’s brain. The novel I began several years back is now a complete entity, with a beginning and an end and even some stuff thrown into the middle just for fun. I can hardly believe it myself. I got notes back from some friends and my copy editor (who’s also a friend, but tries hard to keep professional distance during this work) and will soon send queries for it out to agents. Amidst all this, however, I have achieved something much more important.
I have discovered the secret to writing a book.
Yes, I know what everyone else says: “Keep writing.” Sure, that’s helpful, but it doesn’t address the core problem. Most of us, even with writer’s block, can come up with words. If nothing else, we can open a dictionary and copy some down. The difference lies in the sequence in which we place them.
So, how do you write a book without resorting to plagiarizing the works of Webster?
You stop worrying about being any good.
That’s it. That’s the whole secret. Quit worrying about the quality of your work, and the words will flow. Of course, at some point you will have to go back and edit, tweak, hone your words, take out forms of the verb to be, eviscerate excess inner monologue, all that good stuff. While you are creating, however, you need to embrace the words that come from your mind in their original, unadulterated form. Sure, those words may possess neither weight nor wit. They might resemble the early works of those chimpanzees that will someday crank out Shakespeare. It doesn’t matter. If you wish to write a book, if you have a story in your head that resists all other attempts at exorcism such that you must write it down, you must learn to trust the inane ramblings that issue from your fingers.
Ben Stiller sums it up best in the movie Keeping the Faith:
You have to own it. “I love that I suck. I love that I suck.”
It is a challenge. It is a rite of passage. When writing a book, at some point you will reach a point when you wonder if you actually should be writing anything. I can almost guarantee it. I had many such moments with this latest book, but for some idiotic reason, I believed there was a story in there worth telling. Who knows, I may still be wrong about that, but the belief kept me going. When I started have accountability meetings at the beginning of this year with my dear friend Diana Elizabeth Jordan, I promised her that I would write a certain number of words each week. I didn’t promise they’d be any good, and some of them weren’t, but I wrote them. Lo and behold, when I put enough words together, I had a book. My mantra while writing became, “I can fix that later.” I wrote most of that book longhand, and the margins ended up filled with scribbles like “make this happen earlier” and “change other passage to match this.” I decided if I tried to make corrections to earlier things each time I noticed something, I’d never reach the end, so I stopped trying to perfect things as I went. As a result, even after writing “The End,” I had a lot of work to do, but somehow the work became easier to do when I had a frame to put it in.
It helped to meet with Diana every week. She’s starting her own business and needed help staying motivated, so every Friday, we met and discussed our progress during the week. Then we set specific, measurable goals to accomplish during that week. That was big for me. Not just “write something,” or “work on the book.” It needed to be a word count, or “finish the scene where this happens,” or something along those lines. Diana is the nicest person on the planet. She is never going to berate me or tell me I didn’t work hard enough. If I show up on Friday and say I didn’t make my goal, all she will ever do is give me a look of great understanding and say, “I know. Sometimes it’s hard.” But just knowing that I have to say out loud whether I did or didn’t do something gives me more impetus to get it done.
So there you have it. Love that you suck, and find a friend to hold you accountable for continuing your adventures in suckitude. That is what has gotten me through three books, and 20,000 words into a fourth.
Right now, those 20,000 words feel a little sucky, but I’m embracing it. So far, it’s working.
Kimberly continues to crank out the crap, just to make sure the chimpanzees don’t beat her to it.