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The Challenges of Writing

For as long as I can remember I have loved words. Whenever someone asks what my hobbies are the first two which spring to mind every time are reading and writing. Over the years I have read more books that I can remember and I have dabbled in almost every style and form of writing. I eventually developed my current writing style, which, through many nights of torture at the University of Michigan, I have come to love. I think that word that best describes it is unassuming.

Basically, I write what I mean and I mean what I write.

Though I enjoyed every minute of writing to meet the goal of 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month, I have to admit that I faced a lot of challenges. I haven’t ever held myself to a daily regiment of writing every day for a month before. I couldn’t conceive how difficult it would really be.

I didn’t have to start from scratch with this story. I hadn’t previously written any part of it, but I had a very rough idea of what I wanted it to be about. I called it “L’oiseau Libre” and envisioned a story about an extremely stratified society that encompassed an entire planet. The planet was fiction, and orbited a binary star. Almost everyone on the planet lived in mega-metropolises that spanned miles and reached high into the sky. The main character was a disgraced detective who was offered a chance to redeem himself.

That synopsis misses a lot of what the story ended up developing into. Through the writing process of changed my mind on a lot of things, including things like character sexuality. I was surprised to see how those kinds of changes, which seemed to be minor at first, had a huge ripple effect that changed how the story would develop later, sometimes unpredictably.

I’m not finished with the story yet. I’ve added a few more thousand words, but I’m grappling with the feeling that it might be getting too long for the kind of story it is. I know that the best thing I could do is just to keep plugging away but those doubts keep nagging.

That brings me to the next challenge: doubt. It claws at you the entire time. Is this character behaving realistically? Does this make sense? Is there a sense of logic to how the events are unfolding? As I write I never have an answer to these questions.

The only way to deal with them, I’ve found, is to just keep writing. Keep it going. Let the story and the people take on lives of their own.  The editing process comes later. That’s when you’re absolutely brutal to your own creation. But tearing it apart comes later; before you can even begin to think about what should stay and what should go you simply need to write it.

The last challenge I want to talk about is creative energy. The first fifteen days were simple compared to the last fifteen days. As the month dragged on I found it harder to focus on the story and, at times, I feel like I was losing control of the plot. Sometimes writing that 1500 words a day felt like torture, but worse than that I couldn’t feel the strands of life in the story.

Looking back on the bits that I had written during those times I see that the characters seem flat and their dialogues seem uncharacteristic. I don’t think I’ll change those parts until the rough draft is done, but when I really feel like the story is flowing organically from one point to the next, even without my input sometimes, I sometimes think back to those parts and grimace.

But all of that is part of the writing process. And in the end I revel in all of it.

Plus I just bought a box of red pens and I can’t wait to go through them.

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