Do you like that Doors song, The End? It’s sort of moody and spacey with the keyboards doing their floaty ominous thing? I’ve always liked that song because, as my daughter tells me relentlessly, I am emom (get it? emo + mom? She’s hilarious.)
But, frustratingly for my doom and gloom tastes, I am also an optimistic fantasist! I believe that the end is the beginning and even with a disaster, dumpster fire of a year like 2016, good will come.
But I don’t wait around for good to drop by with coffee cake. I do good things. Writing is a good thing. It is good for the writer and (if you do your job right) it is good for the reader. But that’s not all writers do. We critique and beta other writers’ work. We engage in book talk like the nerdy fiends we are. We care about books because books are supercharged delivery systems for ideas. They are how we learn to be critical thinkers (and how, once we learn, we don’t forget.)
Books are awesome, we all agree. (Except you in the back. Show yourself out.) But how do we go about writing them?
Short answer, and you can knock off early: You just do. You sit. You think. You write. You can mix it up a bit. Write while standing, sit to think. Or sit and write and think later – messy, but I’ve done it! Essentially though, that’s it.
Long answer: You try every trick in the book to fool yourself into devoting hours of your time to thinking, writing and rewriting.
You find other writers to complain to about how hard writing is.
You read. There are lots of ratios floating around here but I like to think of it as minimum 2/1 ratio. For every 1000 words you want to write, you need to read 2000 words. Read the way you eat (or, actually, the way I eat) voraciously and widely.
You subscribe to magazines (Writers Digest, Poets & Writers etc.), newsletters (PW, Shelfawareness, Goodreads)
You join a crit group/writing group and you make sure you do the work and show up.
You join societies or groups of writers (I belong to the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, SCBWI)
You attend local or regional writing conferences – some are almost a week long and really expensive, some are a day long conference at a meeting and absolutely reasonable. You go to what you can, when you can.
You commit to writing in a way that is real and quotidian.
Doing the above (and having help from many wonderful people) is how, as of December 2, 2016, I managed to write five books of 80,000 words or more. I’m not talking about whether those books are good or not. I’m talking about doing it. Writing. I have done it and I will keep doing it.
So, last Thursday I wrote THE END on my manuscript. Today, I’m already thinking, “What’s Next?”