Thursday, March 26, 2009

ARTICLE: Write, But Only if You Have To - by B.J. Daniels

My daughter recently decided to bite the bullet. She had never written fiction. She'd worked for a newspaper and a business journal, she'd written a column and news stories, and she'd done a lot of design.

But she'd never tried her hand at fiction.

When she told me she was thinking about it, I was encouraging, however, I told her: Take a shot at it, but if you're not having fun, then don't do it.

I also told her that I would be completely honest with her. I suggested she write the first three chapters. I would read them and tell her if she should keep her day job.

It was scary for both of us. I have encouraged aspiring writers for years. A lot of the people I've encouraged don't really want to write--and they just haven't realized it yet. This life isn't for everyone, as you all know. I'm sure, like me, you've had days when you start reading the classified ads to see what kind of REAL jobs are out there.

So, it was with trepidation that I received my daughter's first three chapters. I was immediately relieved to find that she had her own voice and a knack for putting words together. There were things she would have to work on, but after reading all of my work for years, she understood what she needed to do.

I was concerned that she only wanted to do this for the money. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I just didn't want that for her. I wanted to be sure that she actually enjoyed this.

She did. In fact, she surprised herself at how much she enjoyed the writing. She also said she had a better understanding of her mother now. Since a lot of days she wanders through the house in her fictional world and often forgets what brought her into a room--or does things like make toast and doesn't remember doing it.

I wanted her to appreciate each accomplishment. Finishing the first draft was a big one. Cause for celebration.

Of course, there were other hurdles to come. Rewriting. Then more rewriting as she honed her plot.

She scaled each of the hurdles and now is at the point where she needs to go line by line to get the manuscript as perfect as possible before sending it out.

I realized as I watched her write every day until the book was finished, then stay with it through the rewrites, that she just might be able to do this. Not so much because of talent, but because of perseverance.

She found out that writing on the book every day was much easier than letting even a day go by. She read other books like the genre she was writing, bought books on writing and devoured those, and studied how other writers did things like dialogue and transitions.

I had to smile, since I'd already taken this journey. It made me realize she'd actually been listening to me all these years when I talked about writing.

If I have learned one thing about writing, it is that you have to stick with it. There will be highs and lows. But if you are serious and determined, then you just don't quit. You get better. You work harder. You learn more.

But you have to enjoy it. This occupation is too hard to do it otherwise. There are so many other ways to make more money with a lot less effort.

My daughter took my other advice as well: "Make the book your own. Write what you love, what you know, write to please yourself."

After discussing the upcoming line-by-line edit, my daughter said, "People don't realize how much work is involved in writing a book."

Boy howdy.

All along, I kept saying: "This is just your first. It might not sell. If you're serious then you'll have to keep doing this without knowing what the future holds."

She said, "I know. But I want my first book to be as good as I can make it."

I smiled to myself, glad she was willing to put in the work, and proud that she isn't expecting instant gratification.

At the same time, I know the highs and lows that come with writing. I wouldn't wish it on anyone--unless they love doing it--or it's in their genes.

Like I tell most aspiring writers: Are you crazy? Some are just crazy enough.

You can find B.J. Daniels at Her bestselling series, Whitehorse, Montana, continues April, May, June, Sept, and Oct of this year with another six coming in 2010 from Harlequin Intrigue.

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