The ups and the downs

A while back Sean Williams made this comment about my post on whether you have to write every day to be a “real” writer:

    the really creepy thing, the thing that freaks me out the *most* about this crazy job, is that what works for me one year is in no way guaranteed to work the year after, or the year after that, or ever again in fact. i feel like i’m running on a treadmill that’s constantly changing speed and angle. as charles brown likes to say: “writing is the only job that gets harder the longer you do it.” but maybe he’s been hanging out with writers too long. that’s definitely the impression you’d get, from the way we carry on about it :-)

Sing it brother! I know heaps of writers who say they hate rewriting; I know stacks who hate first drafts. But for me it’s back and forth, back and forth. The first draft of Magic or Madness went like a dream, but then so did the rewrites (mostly). The first draft of Magic Lessons was part dream, part nightmare. The rewrites were wonderful, the best writing experience of my life. So fabulous that I just wanted to keep rewriting it forever. What larks! The first 50 thou words of M!M!M!O!O!O! was fabulous, the last 15 thou—the worst writing experience of my life. And the rewrites have continued in that vein. Fun? No. Not even a little bit.

I worried that my experience of writing each book would show on the pages, and so asked my writer friends if they’d noticed a correlation between their experience of writing a book and its reception out in the world. The unanimous response was a resounding “Nope, none.”

Scott’s biggest selling book is Uglies. Yet, it was by far his most unhappy writing experience. His mother died shortly before he began the book and he was in deep mourning throughout the writing process. Yet nothing in the book would ever lead you to suspect how miserable he was while writing it.

Sean Williams has published a gazillion million books so he knows what he’s talking about. I gotta confess it was a shock to me. I honestly thought once I’d written a novel I’d have the whole novel-writing caper all sewn up. Nope. All I learned was how to write that particular novel, which ain’t that useful unless you’re writing the same novel over and over again. And how boring would that be?

As I struggle to get M!M!M!O!O!O! to be the book I want it to be—and damn it, I ain’t quitting until it’s there—I keep reminding myself that in five, ten, fifteen years I won’t remember the writing process. I won’t remember which bits came easy, which came hard. I’ll be too busy writing whatever new book challenge I’ve set myself. It’s one of the many cool things about being a writer: as a job it’s a moveable feast. You never know how it’s going to go. The rewards are enormous and the punishment huge. And every single day of writing I learn something new.

I love it.


  1. Rebecca on #

    i write everyday, but it’s all blogging, so does that even count? my actual book-writing does tend to reflect whatever is going on in my life, usually the sucky bits, which is why I always wind up thinking everything i write is crapola. and rewriting is kind of the same, in a less extreme way. my first novel got to its ninth draft before i just flat gave up. same problem with my current projects, but i’m trying to make myself do such vastly unheard of things like character profiling and plot outlining (gasp!) to help get things streamlined. i absolutely hate endings, though. I never think about the ending until i have to write it. which may be part of the problem. but if i know the ending ahead of time, i don’t want to tell the story. if things are really going crap, then i can’t write at all. i suppose if i was doing it professionally, i wouldn’t have a choice. i guess i can’t really tell if each story’s process will be same for me, because i’ve changed so much in between the previous ones, and i’m only just now reaching a stage where my (i guess) mindset is more or less constant.

    “Though I remember the first time I came across real, geuine, actual, living-and-breathing, published writersรขโ‚ฌโ€I hung on every single word they said as if it were holy writ”
    cool. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    wait, so is m!m!m!o!O!O! book three?

  2. Rebecca on #

    i just finished magic lessons. fabulous book. it surprised me, and it was great! i can’t wait till the next one comes out. how will i ever survive till then? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Sir Tessa on #


    I don’t believe one has to write every day to be a writer. But one must write often enough that they satisfy their own criteria for ‘writer’. I have on again, off again months myself.

  4. sara z on #

    omg, i know. it doesn’t really get easier. and it’s weird – inevitably the parts that were most excruciatingly tedious for to write are the ones that people say they like. balls! and i used to love first drafts and hate rewriting. now first drafts are the devil. i don’t know. it’s not what i expected.

  5. Justine on #

    Rebecca: I definitely don’t count blogging as writing, though when the fiction writing is going badly it does help to know that you’re capable of writing something. I find my non-fiction writing, the blogging and email writing are all different writing muscles than the novel writing muscles.

    So pleased you liked Magic Lessons! Yes, M!M!M!O!O!O! is book three. Stay tuned for a preview of the real title and cover some time this week.

    Sir Tessa: Put your fingers in your ears all you want—it ain’t nuthin’ but the truth!

    Sara Z: Yeah, it’s so weird how little correlation there is between how it was to write it and how it is for people to read it. I guess it makes sense given that books cna be read in a few hours when it takes months, if not years, to write the buggers!

    Yeah I was the same—hated rewriting and then I started to love it. Right now I’m not liking either of ’em!

  6. Rebecca on #

    can’t wait for the title/cover!

    you know, those fibonaccis are pretty useful. i was doing them in my head at the dentist today, and i got all the way to 987 without messing up. nothing as good as reason, but then i’m not reknowned for my math skills. ๐Ÿ˜› it was cool to have something else to really concentrate on. thanks for that. ๐Ÿ˜€

Comments are closed.