Posted by: Kerry Gans | May 29, 2014

Kid Questions #1: Does Writing A Novel Ever Get Boring?

My mom works as an English as a Second Language aide. One day, an author visited her school. One of my mom’s students asked my mom, “Doesn’t it get boring writing a long book?” My mom asked how I would answer this question. So here’s the answer, for my mom’s student and for anyone else who ever wondered the same thing.

Writing a book is a long process. I feel many different emotions during the writing of a book. So let’s start at the beginning, and see how it goes.

When I first get a new idea, I’m excited and happy. I’m so excited that ALL I want to do is work on the book. I don’t want to go out, I don’t want to eat, I don’t want to talk to anyone. I just want to live in my brand new story idea.

Some writers create detailed plots and character sketches and do massive amounts of research prior to actually writing the story (those writers are called plotters), and some only have the sketchiest idea of plot and character and do their research as they go along or after they finish the first draft (these are called pantsers). Me? I’m a bit in between, but closer to a pantser. I do a rough outline. At this stage, the idea is still shiny and new, and I am still excited and eager to get to the writing.

Once I start writing the first draft, the first part usually goes smoothly. The excitement of a new adventure, a new world, a new group of characters, is still heady, and it carries me along.

Somewhere in the first draft, though, things change. The excitement fades and the words don’t come as easily. Sometimes I struggle with scenes that just aren’t coming out right. Sometimes my characters start to go flat. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to take the story next (this is where plotters probably have the advantage). At this stage, I feel frustrated, because I have this great idea in my imagination, and I can’t get it right in words on the page.

When I am frustrated, that would be a really easy time to just give up. And a lot of writers do give up, which is why so few people who START writing a book actually FINISH one. If you want to be a real writer, you have to finish, period. There is no shortcut. You have to put in the work and struggle through the hard parts. So another thing I feel at the same time I get frustrated is stubbornness. I’m stubborn. I will not give up on an idea I think is worthwhile. You need that sort of stubborn perseverance if you’re going to succeed in writing—or in anything else, really.

Usually, as the end of the first draft approaches, the excitement comes back, because I know where the story is going, I know the characters, I can see the end in sight, and I want to make it an awesome ending. And when I finally reach the end, it’s a mix of feelings. Happiness, because finishing is a big achievement. Pride, because it was hard to finish. Relief, because I made it through the tough part. Sadness, because I’m done writing this story. Except that I’m not really done yet!

You’ll note I didn’t ever say that writing was boring. And there’s a good reason for that: if I am bored writing a scene, a reader will be bored reading the scene. So if I find myself bored with what I’m writing, that’s a BAD sign.

Finishing the first draft is not the end of the process. Then comes the editing and revising. I revise everything AT LEAST five times. Usually more.

I actually enjoy revising—a lot of writers don’t. But when I am reworking the story, I rearrange parts of it, delete scenes, write new scenes. I figure out my theme and find symbols that worked their way into the story. I find deeper meanings to the story than I had plotted. All of these things make me surprised and happy and excited.

But there are boring parts of editing, too. Finding all the passive verbs (like “was,” “were,” and “had been”) and making them into stronger active verbs (like “throw,” “ripped,” or “lectured”). Taking out the words ending in -ly or -ing (they tend to make your sentences weak). Formatting checks like having only one space after a period or making sure all your dashes are em-dashes. Spellcheck (always, always Spellcheck!). Those are not creative, and can be boring, but they are absolutely necessary to creating a good book.

So that’s my answer in a nutshell. During the process of writing a book, I feel many emotions—but boring is not usually a top one. And getting to the boring part is actually a good sign, because it means I’m REALLY close to having a publishing-ready manuscript!

How about my fellow authors out there? Do you ever find writing a long book boring?

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Responses

  1. I agree, writing the novel is the most fun part. Revising is OK. I find editing the book the boring part. I would love if the editing fairies would just take it, after I was done and do what they had to do, so I could go on to the next project.

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    • Yes, I am still trying to find the perfect bait to lure those editing fairies out of hiding, but so far, no luck! :-)

      Like

  2. I wouldn’t call writing boring at all. I think though that sometimes life intrudes – health issues, other writing projects and when this happens, I find it hard to focus on the project at hand. One thing that helps is blogging. I’ve also made a policy to avoid discussing a book until I’ve done one or two drafts of it. If I start talking about it right off, the creative energy goes.
    Thanks for a great post.
    Barbara of the Balloons

    Like

    • Yes, focus–rather than boredom–can be our biggest enemy.

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