Finishing a first book is like ramming an icebreaker ship through unforgiving ice. Or making a path through three feet of snow. Or knowing the direction to travel through the woods but spending most of the hike looking for the trail, having overfilled your backpack.
A first book is rarely a direct path from start to finish. And it’s hard work.
“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” ~Thomas Mann
What I learned with my first book
- You’re going to do it wrong more times than you can count before you do it right.
- You will write inefficiently, even with a plan.
- Everything will take many times longer than you think.
- You’re going to redo and redo and redo. And redo.
- When you’ve researched your facts and grammar ad nauseam, you’re going to re-research them. (Wait. That could just be me.)
- When you have your FINAL file for publication, you’re going to make two more FINAL files because you found something.
“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon–well, I put it back again.” ~Oscar Wilde
But there’s a bright side. Things improve with the second book because the ice is broken (don’t let it freeze solid by waiting too long before writing again), the path through the snow is cut, and the hiking trail is blazed.
Even if the second book is quite different, you have a better sense for how to do it without taking so many tangents and unwanted scenic routes. Some things have to be experienced to be learned.
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ~*Thomas Hood/ Nathaniel Hawthorne
- In my attempts to win my NaNoWriMo badge for 50,000 words in 30 days, I learned that some books are easier to write than others.
- The process of production is harder than writing the book.
- Returning to writing after editing, proofreading, and production is intensely refreshing because you don’t have to be “on” and alert all the time. You can drink wine and work late at night with eye strain again, because if you’ve dropped an “ed,” missed an end quote, or overlooked a typo, you’ll pick it up on a subsequent pass.
Which reminds me–I believe I have a book to write. Cheerio.
*This quote is commonly attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne; however, Quote Investigator “provisionally credit[s] Thomas Hood with the version of the maxim he used in 1837” (via Susanna J. Sturgis). See also Easy Reading is Damn Hard Writing in Writingfeemail’s Blog.