“E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.” Anne Lammott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
I wasn’t sure if I agreed with this quote when I first read it, but as I wrote my thoughts (below), I realized that I find this quote motivational.
The mentality described in this quote is helping me get words in right now during my business season of the day job. It’s helping me see my story one scene at a time so that the project doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I’m working a lot right now. I’m also managing to get up and write a little each morning. Sometimes “a little” means 130 words, and sometimes it means 600 words. But I’m moving forward, if only as far as I can see on a particular morning. And that’s important when you’re limited on time.
On the other hand, I’m a “big picture” writer. I mostly know the big plot points before I start writing, or at the very least, before I get very far into the story. I know how the story ends before I even start. I don’t know everything that happens or how we’re going to get to that ending, but I know the end destination.
For those of you who struggle with finding time to write, I hope you’ll cut out this quote (and by cut, I mean print, silly — I think I just showed my age with that word choice) and post it in a spot where you’ll see it. Writing a complete novel doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You just have to be willing to move forward.
One word at a time…
So many people (SO MANY) tell me that they don’t see how I’ve found the time to write a book. Others who have managed to write tell me that they could never take the time it requires to publish and market a book.
I hear people say, “I would have liked to do what you’re doing…
“…if things had been different.”
“…if I had the time.”
“…if I had the money to pay for editors, cover design, etc.”
“…if wasn’t still raising children.”
“…if my children weren’t so busy.”
“…if I didn’t have another job that I was tied to.”
People who say these things to me obviously don’t know me very well. I believe wholeheartedly in the following:
1. I believe that only you can change the path you’re on. Stop waiting on everyone else.
2. If you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to work toward it.
3. You’re never too old. There is always time to learn something new, try something different, and be who you are meant to be.
My heart is screaming loudly at me these days! And my mind has it’s own Edward Scissorhands boxing gloves on. Luckily, my heart is extremely resilient against bullies!
What is your heart telling you today that your mind isn’t? Which one are you listening to?
I read so often on industry blogs how we must obey certain rules when creating stories for our readers. Agents and publishers are often looking for certain “marketable” stories. If an acquisition editor can’t compare it to other successful stories or identify the specific bookstore shelf on which to place a story, they sometimes feel a bit lost and end up rejecting a well-written, perfectly told story that readers would have loved.
I’ve seen this happen. I have friends who have beautifully written stories stored on their computers waiting for a home. I know writers who didn’t sell stories because they were written in “the wrong time period,” were too different or couldn’t be placed in just one genre, or (my all-time favorite) had college aged characters. (Hello, New Adult!)
So, today I celebrate writers who published their “unmarketable” manuscripts despite rejection. I’m also celebrating writers who dare to step out in faith and write what’s on their heart—to write that story the reader didn’t even know she craved.