It’s the start of the New Year and we need to talk. I realized that I haven’t really talked about the actual process of writing a book. What I mean is, I have never talked about discovering theme, fleshing out characters, or rewriting scenes. I have only shared the milestones and not the actual behind the scenes action.
The reason for this format is that I need to focus on the book writing. This is why blog posts and newsletters are once a month rather than every week. On hard months, I’ll throw in a review or life update to maintain content flow.
What I didn’t realize until now, is that I haven’t discussed the actual writing process.
So I never got into the details of how I felt about the writing. The failures, the victories, the roadblocks.
Being a writer is an emotional roller coaster. You have the highest highs and the lowest lows. It sounds bi-polar and sometimes it feels like it is, though the mood change is entirely dependent on the writing. There are days where I love what I’ve written and days where I hate everything.
Let’s talk about my feelings towards the prose.
Currently, I hate how my prose feels repetitive. ‘She walked, she turned around, she grabbed her phone.’ Normally these are mistakes fixed in editing, but I hate how I feel like I’m always fixing repetitive prose issues.
When I read descriptions from my favorite authors; I can’t help but feel like my brain doesn’t compose sentences the way they do.
Yes, even after three books, I still struggle with describing feelings and mood.
What I found interesting is that I only seem to have this problem with Silver Ninja books. When I wrote the test pages for my vampire novel, the descriptions were much more vivid and in-line with the kind of descriptions I wanted to write. As soon as I figure out why my vampire novel has better descriptions, I’ll let you know.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about productivity.
I chose to write Narco Hotel as a novella so that I could publish a book every year. I started this book in February 2019 and we’re now in 2021.
I thought by now I could consider myself a veteran writer, but it turns out I’m still a newbie. Even after having written millions of words, I’m still not even close to being as proficient or productive as the real pros.
I still overthink my stories to the point of paralysis.
When I was in 6th grade, I was able to churn out stories in a weekend. They were all rough drafts in dire need of editing but they got done. I was able to write novellas without ever asking myself, “Is this story any good?”
As a kid I could write 15 to 20,000 words a month. I had twenty novellas under my belt and a few short stories. They were all trash, but they were finished works. (Though I did find it funny that in one of my short stories I wrote something along the lines of, “This story is finished because I’m tired of writing it.”) Most of my middle school, high school tales revolved around me as the protagonist, my friends, and my juvenile crush. Since the prose was dialogue heavy, it was pretty easy to bang these stories out back to back.
1996-2006 was the golden age of my writing and creativity.
The only thing I had to worry about was getting my homework done and waking up on time to catch the bus. You never appreciate how good you have it as a thirteen year old until you become a responsible adult.
I even managed to find the time to write a play that we eventually performed in high school. It was terrible and embarrassing, but still counts as an achievement.
Point is, I know I have the capability to write novellas quickly. The problem is, I grew up.
No one wants to read about the author and his friends being main characters. Readers want fleshed out characters and immersive worlds. This was not something my juvenilia writing provided.
There was no risk of failure. I could write whatever I wanted and not worry about receiving a mountain of one star reviews. I didn’t have to worry about whether my book’s topic would be profitable in the marketplace.
Once I decided to become a professional writer, all these pressures made it difficult for me to decide on a writing project.
When you take on a writing project, you want to be ninety-eight percent certain that it is a story idea worth torturing yourself over. I say ninety-eight because even if you start writing an idea you –think– you will love, sometimes it doesn’t work out for whatever reason.
Writing is a love affair that lasts for months—weeks for even the fastest writers. You don’t want to spend that time with something boring.
This is my long way of saying that writing Narco Hotel has been an unexpected challenge and I am strongly considering not leaving it as a novella. It seems that there’s too much that needs to be said and not enough words to say it. I am not yet ready to commit to 60 or 80k words but it is tempting.
Lastly, I should talk about successes, because what’s the point of writing if you don’t score a win once in a while?
I was finally able to decide on a theme I was happy with. Narco Hotel had multiple themes and story elements that were important to me. But as the rule of thumb goes, if everything is important, nothing is important.
I had to pull my last resort card and discuss the book with my fiancée. I try to avoid talking to her about the book because I have a tendency to talk about my work a little too frequently. At the same time, I couldn’t hit up my editor because talking to her costs money! Ha, ha, ha.
I mean it’s money I’m happy to pay but only when I have it.
And since I’m not a part of any writing groups and I am not ready to beta test this book, I had no choice but to bother my fiancée with another, “I’m having a roadblock again.”
Thankfully, this resulted in me choosing a theme that I felt would best encompass everything I wanted to cover in the book. Unfortunately, I can’t say what the theme is because theme is an element the reader has to discover on their own. For veteran readers, knowing the theme could spoil the entire plot of a book.
So Narco Hotel is back on track in terms of having a theme that connects all the scenes together.
In my next blog post, I would like to discuss the actual process of rewriting scenes, fleshing out characters, etc. I’m not sure how I can do this without discussing spoilers, but I’ll see what I can figure out.
But that’s a topic for another time.