Thursday, March 24, 2011

Is Writing and Obsession, or is it Madness?

A friend of mine who has sold short stories to several major magazines decided to ‘move up’ to writing longer fiction. I thought her plot was rather good, but she found herself bogged down in all of the endless details that go into creating a longer work of fiction.

“I thought I left all of the stress behind me when I quit my job,” she complained. “Considering my past experience, this was supposed to be easy.”

Welcome to the real world of writing, I thought. There are two kinds of writers. Those who enjoy what we are doing so much it would be impossible to quit, and those who slog through a morass of details like the Doughboys in France during WWI.

Having recently completed book number two in a three book series, I am well familiar with the details involved in creating a work of fiction. From conception to completion of ‘book one,’ I wrote four other novels and a large number of stories and articles. I didn’t want to write a series, but the plot and the characters kept nagging at me and often kept me awake at night. Mostly, it was the bookkeeping end of the task that kept me from moving forward at the same satisfying pace to which I was accustomed. There was always just one more detail to research. It took time.

It is within the realm of possibility that some books could be written without the author making a note, doing any research, or agonizing for long hours over plot details. It is possible, but not likely.

Some author once answered a question from a magazine writer who wanted to know, ‘what is it like to write a novel?’

‘You just sit down at your typewriter and open a vein,’ was the answer. Others have pointed out, rather accurately I thought, that writing is not what you do, but what you are. This naturally carries us over into the discussion of whether writers are born into the craft, or if it can be learned. From my own observations, I have come to the conclusion that most of us were born that way. It is not to say that the craft cannot be improved by much study and practice, but I believe that it is another of those driving obsessions like drug abuse, or kleptomania. I have a lot more to say on the subject, but I need to get back to my novel . . .


~kate said...

I was once asked if just anybody can be a writer. My answer is that nearly anyone can learn the mechanics of writing - grammar, spelling, parts of speech, etc. but not everyone is a storyteller. And that, I think, is the key to being a writer...that you can tell a good enough story that somebody will want to read. That's a gift.

Anonymous said...

There is no c in obsession.

Sally A Wolf said...

I think that it is like a drug once you take a little you need more and more to be satisfied. I am not yet published but I write anyway just because I have to if I don't I become irritable and mean.

Milton T. Burton said...

There was a moment of horror (I'm not joking here) about a year before I sold my first novel when I realized I couldn't quit writing on the one hand and that I might never earn a dime by doing so on the other. That was a very freaky moment. Somewhat depressing. I don't know what writing is for others, but once I began it soon became a compulsion.