“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” the WAR of ART by Steven Pressfield

Resistance is the word Pressfield uses to describe the avoidance of writing. Writers love to write. I love to write. But I frequently fight the idea of walking to my desk and picking up a pen. (Or turning on the computer.)

This surprises me. The primary emotion I feel when writing is JOY. Yes, with capital letters. Why would I avoid joy? For me it’s connected to the dark side of creative work. That is, the WORK side of creativity.

  • Writing? No problem. Finished version one of the manuscript over a year ago.
  • Revising? No problem. My writing group and other readers gave valuable input.
  • Editing? No problem. Lots of lists of what to look for are available for all genres. Checked the plot structure, character development, believability of dialogue, grammar, spelling, length, and more. (Yes, there is always more.)
  • More revising? No problem. Professional input received at conferences and in classes led to minor changes and sharpened the content.

So why has it taken so long to finish? Along the way readers had asked for a stronger roll for one of the characters. And the most recent reviewer asked for the same adjustment. I increased his part a bit, but felt he would alter the narrative too much if I gave him more space.

Should I call it done or should I make this change? Making him a main character would require a major rewrite. Would the story change too much? Resistance persisted. I argued with myself about “artistic integrity”. My idea vs. that of readers. How many revisions are enough?

With a new year and a longing to spend time creating a second story, I faced my dilemma: I liked the presence of this character. Adding him would improve the book. The problem was the work. It would mean re-rewriting, and I did NOT want to mess with this project any longer.

As soon as I admitted improvement was possible, the resistance vanished. Instead, I was able to lose myself in the magic of the story and the appeal of the enhanced character.

The story is done, for the 27th time (who’s counting?) I’m ready to write queries and pitches with confidence that the manuscript is ready. Hooray!

10 Pages

After working on a novel for a month (NaNoWriMo), a year or 7 years, it all comes down to 10 pages.

It may not seem fair. It may not seem possible. But as my brother says, “It is what it is.”

Literary agents and publishers are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of writers and their manuscripts. So for newbies with no established street cred in society ie., fame, it’s all about 10 pages. The first 10 of your manuscript.

For writers of middle grade fiction the packet you send to find an agent usually includes a query letter and the first pages of your book. Those pages need to introduce your main characters to agents and future readers in a way that makes them want more, lots more. They need to care about your protagonists and the difficulties they face. You need to set the hook quickly and reel in your audience. Good story tellers have always done this and now its a 10 page appetizer that makes you hungry for the entire meal. 

Mine are ready to go and I’ll send them out after the holidays. Between now and then I’ll review those first 10 pages again.

Before the last review I’m reading a stack of first chapters. I like to study favorites to learn how to write better. I’ll re-read Greenglass House, The Matchstick Castle, Someday Birds and others. Then I’ll check my ten. They’ve already been edited and reviewed, but I want to be sure the magic is still shimmering in each word.

What books would you read to learn about first pages? What story hooked you right away and still pulls you back to enjoy more than once?