Writing by the seat of my pants

“[I]f I’d a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I wouldn’t a tackled it” – Huck Finn

I am putting the spit-shine on another book and sending it in. Finishing a draft makes me giddy; finishing a final draft (in this case, copyedits) makes me reflective. Here’s another book that, once brilliant in my mind, a bright jewel beckoning from the dark road up ahead, is now nothing but a bright dime in my hand. Not worthless, but less than what I’d hoped for. I dot that last “i” and move on to the next one.

Sometimes I think I ought to blog more about writing but then I can’t come up with anything to say. I don’t want to recite platitudes about diligence and blind optimism. I dislike rules and am ambivalent about grammar. Writing is intuitive for me. I don’t think much about what I’m doing at the sentence/syntax level. I just find a voice and tell a story. Maybe I would be a better writer if I thought more about commas and adverbs, but I’ve settled into my ways. I make it up as I go and create messy manuscripts, then try to make sense out of them with the help of patient, smart people named Angela and Tina and Allison. And although I’ve enjoyed my modest success, I haven’t exactly set the world ablaze with my brilliance, so I’m not saying it’s the right way to do it. It’s my way to do it. I’m just writing by the seat of my pants and lucky enough to have people helping me along.

But it doesn’t matter because when people do ask me for advice, it’s never about writing. It’s about getting published. The casual assumption is that I stumbled across some trick of the trade and didn’t sell anyone on my work based on its quality. I’m not offended or anything; it’s just an observation. And of course I can’t assume whoever is asking me isn’t sitting on the next Watership Down. But I don’t really have publishing advice, either, at least nothing you can’t read in any book or find all over the web.

I will say this: the writing is the hard part. After that it’s all double-spaced pages and market research. So many people have it mixed up. They think writing is easy and publishing is practically impossible. Getting published isn’t easy by any means, but writing is the harder part.

And despite the dreams of seeing my own books on the bestseller list, that isn’t my goal. My goal, yet unrealized, is to write a book as good as my own own favorites. Getting published isn’t the be-all end-all of writing. Writing is.

3 thoughts on “Writing by the seat of my pants

  1. “So many people have it mixed up. They think writing is easy and publishing is practically impossible.”

    I almost got out of my chair and did one of those wave your arms in the air Hallelujah dances.

    So. True.

  2. This was an excellent post! The end goal should not be simply getting published…it should be getting read and remembered in a way that you cherish your own favorite books. It should be getting the words down, in the right order, in the right way. It should be whatever motivates you as a writer. Well said~

  3. If you only write to be published, it seems to me that chances are good you’re only creating a product — something that will get sold at airplane bookstands and be tossed a week later; as bland as oatmeal, if somewhat less filling.

    I know no one can guarantee that you’ll be published even if you do put your heart and soul into what you’re writing, but I can’t help but believe that if you have the talent to write in the first place, writing with that kind of dedication will lead to something worthwhile in the end, including publication.

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