Why Do Authors Write? – #3 Challenges
What makes a person climb to the top of Mt. Everest? The challenge! Why does a business executive with mega-bucks continue to grow his empire more and more? The challenge!
Like so many others, many authors choose to pursue their careers because writing is a challenge. No matter how smooth the reader finds the words on the paper, I can tell you first hand, they did not come out smooth; it was a lot of work to get them that way. Aside from money, fame, and awards, authors write because it’s very satisfying to do the job well. Meeting the challenge of stringing words together into a cohesive whole is like running a marathon. You do it because you love running—or in this case, writing—and the finish line at the end is a challenge you simply have to conquer.
What are the challenging aspects of writing a short story or book?
- Coming up with the idea. These do not spring forth from the head of Zeus. They might be inspired by something innocuous or monumental, but they rarely have a complete beginning, middle, end and subplots when they first flash like a light bulb.
- Dreaming up characters. For me, this is where I start. If I don’t know the characters well, I don’t know how they’d approach the story arch I’ve devised with my idea.
- Outlining. There are outliners and “pantsers” (people who write extemporaneously or “by the seat of their pants”) in the writing business. But, whether they realize it or not, even most “pantsers” have a sketchy outline in their heads to lead their protagonist(s) from opening to ending. Generally, at least three points are required: opening, climax, and ending.
- Writing. This is getting down the bones. It’s unpolished, unedited, and, if you’re not careful, unending. A reader might be surprised at just how difficult this aspect of the process can be. Authors might see the “movies” in our heads for much of the story we’re writing, but there will always be parts that wriggle away from us, and scenes that have no obvious transitions.
- Editing. It is traumatic to take out scenes. Sometimes, a single word can occupy so much space in the flow of a sentence that it is a trial to decide whether to leave it or not. And editing, especially final editing, is tedious. Imagine going through a whole 50,000 word manuscript looking for –ly words and deciding, one at a time, whether they belong or not.
- Submitting work. Having done the job to the best of your ability, now you have to take the enormous step of sharing it with an expert. That expert might rubber stamp your work with their “reject” notice, or they might lead you on with a “please send more” request (and then “reject”), or, if you are a square peg in their square hole, they might accept your baby and send you a contract.
- Editing again. Didn’t you already do this? Now we have to work through –ing words, or some other editor’s pet peeve. Will it make the book stronger? More than likely, it will.
- Promoting. You’ve met all the challenges thus far. Whew. But now you want the book to reach people. Unless you’re a former first lady or an infamous madame, you’ll likely have to do your own promotions. It’s up to you to figure out where to start and how much effort you put into it, versus effort you put into writing your next book. The jury is out on the ratio.
Every one of these steps is a challenge. If you succeed and sell some books, you’ve met your challenge. The feeling of accomplishment is a big part of your reward (though, of course, it might be nice to make a lot of money, too). An author who isn’t willing to take on each and every one of these challenges is in the wrong business, because writing fiction is a tough climb—a lot like Everest.