Are We There Yet?
I’ve always thought of road trips as the cruelest forms of torture. Seriously, if you’d given the sixteen-year-old me a choice between a road trip with my family or being covered with honey and staked to an ant hill, I’d probably have chosen the ant hill. Not that I’m dramatic or anything.
The hatred for road trips stayed with me. It doesn’t help that I get extremely car sick, sometimes even when I’m driving. I love traveling, don’t get me wrong. But for me, the journey is not the best part of the trip. Especially, when you have a van full of kids asking—you guessed it—are we there, yet?
So–what do you ask–does this have to do with writing?
Writing is not about the destination, it’s about the journey. I had to get over myself and learn patience. Patience is key to being a writer, especially if you want to be published. I’ve written several books that will never see the light of day, but they were necessary. They were part of my journey to learn my craft, figure out my style, see what I was passionate about.
I attended a workshop last year with Maggie Stiefvater and Courtney Stevens and their approach on generating ideas is to ask yourself seven questions. The germ of an idea at that workshop inspired my latest MG novel. Then I read Lisa Cron’s STORY GENIUS to help me explore the backstory of my characters and how it relates to their actions. I’ve always loved starting a new story, but sustaining a coherent narrative can be challenging, especially if the characters break off and jump off a literary cliff. The loose structure of this method allowed me the relative freedom to explore the characters without caging me in. I have to say, this was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I always enjoy my characters (even the homicidal ones can be fun to write) but writing is HARD. Anyone who tells you differently hasn’t had to edit and revise so many times they barely remember the original story. Perhaps that’s just me, but writing isn’t about getting it perfect the first time or even the second or third. The messy drafts that get you to the end are what make the journey interesting.
It’s okay to ask: Are we there yet? I think it’s necessary to figure out when you’re really finished, or you’ll just keep tweaking and trying to make your story perfect when there’s no such thing. Good critique partners and beta readers are imperative in this process. Everyone goes on a different journey when they read a book, and they have different things they see. All of these viewpoints can be helpful to flesh out the real bones of the story. Only by cutting out what’s not necessary will you finally reach your destination. Even then, your agent or editor might see a way to make the story even better. And, who doesn’t want to make their book the best it can be? Patience, tenacity, and love for the journey is what I’ve learned with every word I write. Am I there, ye