I’ve been writing creatively since I was eleven or twelve. Writing prose, long-form fiction, whatever you want to call it, is how I prefer to spend my time. That, and reading. I have always maintained that I get the same amount of enjoyment from writing as I do from reading a great book.
Up until recently, it was completely true. I don’t think I’ve encountered a single writer who has felt the same. And that baffled me. How can someone dedicate all of their free time, their life in some cases, to writing fiction if they don’t enjoy it?
On reflection, I understand.
When a great idea pops into your head you go rabid if you can’t write it down. Cue days, weeks, months, of noting down every seemingly spectacular detail that expands it. Dream and daydream and doodle until you’ve got an intricate network of people, places, and things.
Writing the first 20,000 words of your first draft is easy. You can’t believe how quickly the word count is increasing (if you bother to look at all). But then you hit a slump: most of the initial excitement is over and you’re forcing yourself through scenes to reach ones you’ve been replaying over and over in your head. Once the end is in sight, you’re typing so fast the keyboard – or pen – is literally (figuratively) smoking. The rush of endorphins when you finish is incredible.
But then you’re faced with something you’ve grown an emotional attachment to, willingly or otherwise. And the next part is the hardest. No matter how many times you read it through only the odd dodgy word or poorly-structured sentence will stick out. You spend weeks rewriting but you’re not sure if the latest draft is an improvement on the first. Out of desperation, you send it to someone who has a great eye (and ear) for mistakes. And they ask you to cut out entire paragraphs or details you thought were of vital importance.
At first, you’re in denial. How dare they suggest such drastic edits? There’s no way the book would be better without that side plot. Character X is far from bland. This is the part that tests if you have what it takes to transform writing from a hobby to a livelihood. Either you’ll take their advice on board and begin meticulous edits, or you’ll wash your hands of the manuscript and sulk for a few months.
The real kicker is that no matter how many times you go through this process, how many manuscripts you complete and polish (or throw away), each time will be as painful as the first. Tearing down and rebuilding your work will always be an unpleasant and soul-crushing task.