Just Write the Book

Oh, blogging. Back when I didn’t have an agent or even a complete manuscript to my name, back when I was but a lowly intern in a just-started small press, I had no compunction writing up wordy posts about writer’s block, revision, and the emotional travails of the creative process. Now I’m like: Ha-ha! I don’t know crap. I’m not going to write about how much crap I don’t know.

So: #reallife, #whinypublicjournal, #whatisthiseven

I recently finished a 61K draft of my novel in about eighteen days. The speed is not that impressive, because this was like, I don’t know, the ninth, start-over version of this book. The characters, the research, the Shakespeare play upon which it is based, are practically part of my brain’s basic blueprints at this point.

But mentally, there were things like: this is probably the last shot, with this particular book, and this might be hours of essentially wasted work, and you only have a sort-of game plan about where this will go, and your agent is going to hate this and tear up your contract and kick you to the unpublished curb, and even if she does like it, probably every editor is going to hate it too, so who cares, and why didn’t you decide to write a more marketable book, and hahayeahright, it’s not the market, it’s you; you suck.

And so on . . .

But something sort of marvelous happened to me, when I was sitting at my computer, feeling despondent, and I thought, very clearly: Just write the damn book.

I think my subconscious was digging up a little piece of one of my favorite books, Code Name Verity. The phrase, “Fly the plane, Maddie,” runs through the book several times, and it’s basically an assurance: do what you have to do. Don’t let fear stop you. (Apparently the added expletive is my own subconscious’s contribution.) And so, several times as I was starting, breathing out and blocking everything else out, it helped to tell myself, “Just write the book, McKelle.”

Because that’s really your only job at that stage, right? Sure you might have to promote and panic and brave the trenches of editing and marketing, but those will still be there for you to worry about later. In fact, you won’t have to worry about them at all unless you write something first.

The most important part, and incidentally the most enjoyable, is just telling the story. Write the book. That’s all you have to do. And, you know, writing a book is hard – but is it any harder than flying a plane? Or anything else that people do?

Anyway, I bet you can guess what happened. I wrote the damn book. Frankly, it was sort of nice. I love writing, and actually I love this story too, and still will, even if all the aforementioned horrors come to pass.

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3 thoughts on “Just Write the Book

  1. This was so great! I loved your workshops at the LUW Conference and I’m so glad to have found your blog! I find your advice both wise and down-to-earth. Thank you!

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