I admire people that can just write because they enjoy it, and churn out books because they like telling stories, whether or not those stories are good or will ever see the light of day. I’ve never been like that, and to this day, I would consider myself to have only ever finished a complete draft of one novel. This was almost six years ago, and I was in high school at the time.
Ever since then, it’s been the same exact process. A new idea starts to interest me, and I mull it over for a few weeks. I may or may not outline it, but whether or not I do is always a conscious decision. After that I get to work, and about a quarter of the way through, the idea is no longer interesting. I start getting bored until it gets harder and harder to push myself to write, until one day I say it’s not worth it anymore. By then, I may have another new idea to jump onto, but not always.
Soldier of Nadu‘s second draft. White Tower/Kitsuki’s Emissary. Dreamscape. Rise of the Riftguard. The Lisa Stenton anthology. Spear Gate.
I’ve tried everything. From extensively outlining to no planning whatsoever, to writing a collection of short stories rather than a full book. It just doesn’t work.
And now I’ve got the Xelfure project churning over in my head. The more I think of it the more it’s starting to sound like the prequel to the central book series of Nacre Then. But when I first started thinking about it it was barely a short story. A novelette at most. But I thought, while I was dabbling in Nacre Then, why not throw in characters I was already familiar with? And take the opportunity to flesh out characters that didn’t have a solid place in the lore? Well, the idea has entirely outgrown the original framework of the story I had set up—a two layer narrative of past and future is now simply a novel with typical flashbacks, and I will openly admit I don’t like the sound of that. It’s just not what I want for this story, not to mention the size of such a project will never get finished given how I’ve tackled writing the past several years.
I don’t really know what my problem is, but I would hazard to guess that I worry too much about perfection right off the bat. I write good first drafts, I won’t short change myself on that, but rarely do I go back and edit, and I think the way that I write and the things I want to write are completely incompatible. I can only write a good first draft if that story is short, because if it’s too long the pieces I’m juggling get too hard to handle on one pass, and since I don’t know how to go back and make changes I simply lose heart and stop.
I do think that I just need to be okay with writing for writing’s sake. Very rarely have I ever had that mindset. Even the weekly short stories aren’t for me, it’s because I feel obligated as a writer to have an output and having something to show for myself. I don’t think that that’s inherently a bad thing, but it does mean I’m not enjoying what I could.
I’ll say it again—I don’t know how anyone can enjoy writing, but I respect anyone that does. I don’t like writing, I just like having written. It’s a subtle difference, but a big one.
7 thoughts on “Me — My Persistent Problem with Pretty Projects”
Hmmm… I can’t imagine writing if I didn’t like it. I have always felt that you go the places that you write about, like you’re suddenly some place else. That is the feeling I like the most with writing. Interesting how different people are 🙂
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I’ve actually seen this whole topic being brought up a lot lately. After some general reading, it seems that people tend to think that those who don’t enjoy writing are simply posers that like the title. I couldn’t disagree more. While I can’t think of any specific examples, I’d be willing to bet there are tons of famous authors that don’t actually enjoy the process of writing! (Though I will say, I think authors that churn out books like Patterson or Sanderson are very unlikely to fit that category.)
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I think that you can probably find authors in all categories, because people describe the writing process so differently as well. I was more thinking that I probably wouldn’t have motivation to write if I didn’t like it, but I guess your motivation is the finished book 🙂
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Different people enjoy different things I’d say. I like writing because it helps me make coherent the different threads going on in my head. Also because when I finish I can go back, read it and go “I wrote that.” It’s a nice feeling, even if the writing is sub-par and the errors glaring. It’s like a marker I guess, to remind me that I’ve done something with my time.
“My Persistent Problem with Pretty Projects” – is this a Lisa Stenton post? xD
Well, if it was then it’d be the first one of those shorts I’ve actually finished in a while!
What about writing prompts though? And the short stories disparate and disconnected from any greater continuity? Do you enjoy writing those?
Maybe what suits you better are short stories that explore various themes or settings and scenarios. A writer doesn’t have to be the person who wrote a novel, replete with lore and properly fleshed out background. It could just as easily be the person who wrote a of a thousand short tales in a thousand worlds. One-shots if you will.
In the end, it really does depend on what it is that you enjoy about the process, the world building, the writing, the character interactions, or maybe just the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made something. From there it’s just a matter of finding the right method that provides the most enjoyment. After all, writing is an art, there is no standard operating procedure to it.