Novel: Was writing always this hard?

So I’m writing a book.

I don’t usually discuss my personal life much on this blog because it’s not a therapy outlet and you don’t get paid to listen to me whine about my petty problems, but this past year has been a rather difficult and uncertain period especially when it comes to my work and future career. It has been stressing me out, and as much as I lean on God, some days it gets to me. I’ve grown weary of not knowing what to do and what the future holds, so while I’m having to be patient, I’ve decided to channel some of this frustrated energy into a productive project.

Hence, book.

I also don’t usually talk about writing fiction here, I guess because I used to think it was bad luck or something. Probably the truth is that I would be embarrassed to tell you that I was writing what would most definitely end up being a poor, half-finished book and then awkwardly avoid all future inquiries as to the progress of said poor, half-finished book.

But right now it’s one of the few things in my life that genuinely excites me, and I want to share that. Perhaps jotting these thoughts down will help to prompt me to write more and persevere to the end.

I always have a few ideas for novels bouncing around in my furry head — who doesn’t, really? — but as of late one particular idea kept nagging me and poking me, saying, “C’mon, write me already!” I won’t go into specifics, but the general catalyst for this story comes from the fact that about 90% of all fantasy fiction that I read tends to be about the same types of characters: coming-of-age wizards, assassins who are really, really good at killing, battle-scarred veterans with a heart of gold, and anyone who discovers that they’re secretly a werewolf/vampire/c’thulu and feels conflicted about that. Some of it is good, and occasionally a writer will impress me by giving me an unusual protagonist, but I see a lot of common threads of “hero killbot” running through these.

The thought I had was of a protagonist who lived in a fantasy world but wasn’t involved in killing whatsoever. He wasn’t a warrior, he didn’t have super-incredible magical powers, he just had one of the many other jobs that happened to exist in such a landscape. It’s an interesting job, at least to me, it’s just not one that will pit him against a dragon.

A few weeks ago, I decided that enough with just thinking about it, I would sit down and hash out a world building document. I knew enough about my previous writing ventures that I would lose myself in the weeds if I didn’t have a sense of how the world and characters were constructed prior to getting into the narrative. And over the span of a few hours, a rather lengthy document emerged. It kind of just exploded out of my head and I was pretty surprised to see it sitting there. It wasn’t completely unique — what is? — but it felt fresh and different.

Then I started to write. Probably one of my favorite parts of fiction writing is when the narrative and characters take me to unexpected places. I have some general ideas of what’s going on, but these chapters are starting to take a life of their own. That keeps me writing because I want to know what’s next.

So far, I’m four chapters in. I’m trying to rearrange my schedule a little to accommodate regular writing, but I’m still working on that. I need to do this every day, I think, so as not to stall out and so that I can keep momentum going. It’s good fun thus far, all first-person narrative with a strange guy that goes back and forth in a timeline, but it’s not going to be any instant best seller. I have a lot of difficulty with inserting natural-sounding dialogue — I tend to shy away from dialogue, period — and I keep wanting to move the story along to the point where I neglect proper descriptions. So I’m trying to force myself to work those in and not rush.

I did purchase myself a cheap Chromebook, because I want a writing device that’s a little more portable and that won’t tie me to my desk. I can see writing a bit before bed instead of watching TV, as long as I can do it on the couch.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with this weird little section of my life. I might periodically write down some updates on how it’s going, or I might awkwardly avoid your glances for a while. As long as I’m enjoying it and improving my writing abilities, I consider it time well spent. Plus, my kids found out that I’m doing this (my wife knows not) and they’ve been pestering me to read it.

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11 thoughts on “Novel: Was writing always this hard?

  1. Gryph March 21, 2018 / 10:26 am

    Most importantly, good on you for Doing The Thing! 😀 I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m definitely interested in updates as you want to give them.

    Also, dialogue has always tripped me up when I try to write fiction, too. I suspect it’s one of those things that some of us just need more practice than others.

  2. Aaron Butler March 21, 2018 / 11:50 am

    Having actually spent the time to write down an entire book years ago, I’ve been left with one nagging question. What now?
    Seriously.
    I know isn’t written good enough to be published, I have no idea how to get an editor or anything about to do with editors, I wouldn’t even know how to get the book published anyway.

    Writing is the easy the part.

  3. Aywren Sojourner March 21, 2018 / 12:04 pm

    Keep doing it and do a little every day! You’ll be surprised how it adds up.

    If you need some outside encouragement, and you’re still writing come April, maybe join up with the Camp NaNoWriMo. Those are fun because you set your own daily writing goals and share a little virtual cabin with other writers to watch and encourage their progress.

    https://campnanowrimo.org/

  4. Pierre March 21, 2018 / 3:45 pm

    Congratulations Justin. I’m really interested in your updates, as well as in reading the final result. I’m one of your secret admirers: I really like your writing style 😀

  5. bhagpuss March 21, 2018 / 4:32 pm

    Good luck! Writing a novel is a great enterprise, very well worth doing for all kinds of reasons. Just don’t do it for the money! The average earnings from fiction are vanishingly small. Even if you get a deal with a major publisher and receive proper promotion (which almost no-one does) it’s still extremely hard even to make a living from writing fiction. I have a cousin who got a three book deal with a major publisher. On the back of the deal and the advance he gave up his job as a teacher to write. He was writing a popular form of fiction and the books were well-promoted. As a bookseller I was able to check his sales figures (with the company I work for at least) for the first of the trilogy and they were very good indeed for a first novel by a new writer. His first and second book outperformed his publishers expectations by a good margin but by the time it came to write the third he had to face the fact that even at that level of success, which is far higher than most authors ever achieve, he wasn’t making as much money as he’d made in teaching.

    Then again…J.K. Rowling. It’s a bit like doing the lottery, really. About as much chance of winning but if you do get lucky you really get lucky!

  6. melbrankin March 21, 2018 / 6:15 pm

    I’m in theory writing book 2 atm although I’m painting more than writing 😂

    A couple of tips, feel free to ignore 😁

    Programs like scrivener are gold as word and standard office tools are bad at allowing you to move bits, organise chapters and various other useful tools. Not required but def handy

    Dont edit as u go. Edit once your first write is done, even if its a stream of lightly connected words its better to get the entire basic story down then work out how to get it into readable state.

    Nanowrimo is good at motivating to write, having buddy support helps too.

    Anyway, go u! Write lots 😁

  7. Oleg Chebeneev March 22, 2018 / 5:51 am

    I wish you a patience and discipline to finish this book. You’re my favourite writer on MoP but writing a novel is different from writing an MMO article. I’ll be checkin on your progress here.

  8. atherenlightrunner March 22, 2018 / 7:27 am

    How exciting! You sound like you’re off to a great start. Write every day, even a page or paragraph. Write now, edit later. Keep us up to date! I love that your kids want to read your story.

  9. Minimalistway March 22, 2018 / 10:27 am

    Ebooks sell well as i read, you don’t have to write a novel, write about games, one deep researched book about 2-3 games? i’ll buy it, or write about something you care about outside video games.

  10. DonV March 22, 2018 / 3:22 pm

    Great adventure writing a book I wish you success. I would like to do this some day as well. If I may offer an off beat suggestion, the typewriter. There are some really succesfull writers using them. The reasoning is when you sit down and hit those keys it is more final than word processing. Thus it forces the writer to think a lot more about what there is to be said and contributes to the creative process. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/09/the-hidden-world-of-the-typewriter/279523/
    Here is some sage advice from Jim Butcher (Dresden Files) thagt I hope to follow some day.
    https://www.scribd.com/document/41589009/Jim-Butcher-on-Writing

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