Sometimes I wish I had the keen talent of being able to write a novel as quickly as I can read one – in forty-eight hours flat, if I don’t have plans, that is. Wouldn’t that be such an amazing feat? To hole yourself up in a room, hovered over a keyboard or pencil in hand and to emerge in forty-eight hours with a novel in the rough? I dream of it, quite literally sometimes.
I do read quickly though, some might dare to say that I read too quickly. When 2014 first crept up on all of us, I resolved to keep a list of every book I read for the year. I hoped that I would average one book a week, amounting to a stack of fifty-two books, all well read and enjoyed. I read six books in January, another four in February and by March decided that keeping track was too much of a struggle.
In reading all of these books, I often find myself comparing them to my own projects. I’ve been focusing on the same writing project since mid-Spring and while I’ve enjoyed the slow, sometimes tumultuous process of developing characters and winding through big plots and small plots - I often wonder, how long will it take to have that novel in the rough in my hands? One year? Two? It’s hard to believe the well read books hidden throughout the apartment all started with an idea and developed over the course of time in to a published piece of work to be read, by myself, in forty-eight hours or less.
Have you ever been reading a book and about ten pages in realize something that goes a bit like this: “Huh, this person writes a lot like I do.” I have, just did really and it was a little bizarre. I write a bit like I talk, I just put a different voice on – I write from the first person but these characters aren’t me so they can’t sound just like me. Right? Right. Of course, I know there are others that take this same approach but I’ve never read a book where the author had such a similar approach or voice that I was jarred by it. It doesn’t help when your current project is a novel with a character that reads very similarly in voice to the character narrating in those first ten pages. After those ten pages, I did a closer read and realized while the style might be comparable, the voices aren’t – it was a welcome realization.
I’ve always felt sharing a style of writing, a style of voicing characters was a bad thing. I thought that was how grocery store novels were made. You know the ones! The ones that sit by the checkout line. Every book is from one of five authors and they all manage to have a new book out every month. To me, all of those books come across as formulaic. How else could a writer be popping out so many books in so little time? I felt the same about books that shared similar styles and voices – formulaic, dull, not creative, expected… You get the idea.
Now, after staying up until the small hours of the morning, my perspective has changed. Yes, in those first ten pages that book seemed very similar to mine in terms of style and voice (or should I just call it technique?) but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Why not? Because it means someone has tested a style that I’ve had within myself and been afraid to use all this time and found that it works out pretty okay – in fact, stories written like that can get published, do well and even get decent reviews on Amazon (I imagine many published authors as having Amazon induced anxiety.) Being new and innovating can be a wonderful thing but it can also be a scary, nightmarish feeling. Sometimes, especially as a new writer, you just want that comfort of knowing there is another writer out there, more successful than yourself, that shares a similar technique. If it works for them, I can certainly keep making it work for me too.
If you’re going to be a writer then you have to actually write. Who knew? I did but there are a handful that don’t – or they just think writing is this super easy thing that can be done half heartedly without a thought given to it. Do you think that? I hope not because it’s not true, not even in the slightest. Writing takes work and by work, I mean getting up early to get your head straight only to realize your head will never be straight enough to put the story like it is in your mind on to paper and have it be just the same but hopefully better. Then, before you know it it’s noon, you’re starving and you’ve only written a paragraph – a paragraph of six or seven glorious sentences that you’re going to hate immediately after eating lunch. That is being a writer and anyone who tells you writing is a breeze is a dirty liar. Very dirty.
Let’s not get carried away though. Writing is a beautiful thing. As many times as I look at my writing and think, “Well, this is shit, isn’t it?” I still love writing that affectionately named shit. Writing is just a task not meant for the faint at heart. That’s how that saying goes, right?
As I write this, I am also writing a novel – a novel that was born on a piece of scrap paper. I hastily wrote down a few words while driving then pulled over in to a parking lot to write something more legible, that would make more sense. Then the next morning, I woke up and it began. It’s began many mornings since but as you can imagine, or so I hope you can, writing is a slow, laborious process. I know I am perseverating when I say it but I’m going to say it again – writing is not easy, no matter what anyone tells you.
Tomorrow, although an early morning, will not be a writing morning. Instead, it will be a work morning interrupted by breaks of daydreaming about the next writing morning – I call this daydreaming research and it is invaluable, I tell you. Then, I will write – slow and steady, laborious and patient.