Three “Fun” Ways I Develop My Characters

Character development is super, very, ridiculously important if you’re writing any sort of fiction. Of course it’s all very subjective and it depends from author to author, but generally a well-written character is a good thing. Personally, I love developing my characters. Whenever I find myself in a writer’s block or just bored with life in general, I tend to find myself messing around with my characters through various ways. As a “pantser” writer, I can’t even begin to count the times I’ve found a new plot point just by messing around with my characters and their personalities.

Also I just think it’s fun which is probably why I have an entire notebook and folder on my computer dedicated to my characters and why most of my friends think I’m insane.

don't mind me
“Oh don’t mind Maddie. She’s just laughing because of a joke one of her imaginary characters made.”

QUESTIONNAIRES

This is really my starting point for any sort of character development. I’ve found a pretty good one that I’ve used for every character I’ve ever created and actually regularly update with any changes. It asks for the name, age, weight, favorite color, etc. While it is very basic, it’s an excellent start to any sort of character development. My personal favorite question on it is the “trauma” portion. Honestly, all of my characters improved immensely once I was forced to add trauma to their lives. I never even considered it as a contributing factor into a character’s personality until this questionnaire shoved it into my face. It’s basic, but it adds depth.

questionaire

Download this questionnaire!

When I’m truly bored, I’ll find other questionnaires to fill out but honestly this one is still my favorite and my go-to for any character development because of its simplicity.

TIP! If you are serious about filling out this questionnaire, this awesome website can help you determine your character’s height and weight.

 

CHARACTER VERSUS THINGY

 I blatantly stole this idea from artists, but honestly it’s one of my favorite ways to develop my characters. Basically I fan-casted all of the characters in my novel so I have a picture for each character, I number them 1-8, and then throw them into these situations as the thingy determines. You could just use each situation as a prompt without the use of a celebrity’s picture for the characters, but c’mon you know you’ve always wanted to secretly fan-cast your novel.

versusskeleton

Download the Character Versus Thingy!

TIP! If you want to do it multiple times but different situations, my tip is to use https://www.random.org/ to randomize the number given to your characters.

 

ONLINE DRESS-UP GAMES

Okay let me first admit that I am absolute trash for my characters. That being said, http://www.azaleasdolls.com/ is my number one resource to fully visualize my characters. Yeah fan-casting is great and all, but sometimes celebrities are much prettier than your characters. Personally, I have yet to find an actress/model for my main character in my superhero story. It just seems like every actress I’ve come across doesn’t fit my image of her. The mermaid creator offered by Azalea Dolls is really the first time I was able to see my main character’s face.

Sadie Oberg mermaid
Note: Not a mermaid in the novel.

Now they even have a “Sci-Fi Warrior Creator” which is basically the non-copyright-infringement way to say “Star Wars Character Creator”. The only problem with this dress-up game is that there’s no evident male option so I’ve just been gender-bending my male characters.

Sadie Oberg
Same character, just not a mermaid and definitely not a Star Wars character.

TIP! Choose a matching color scheme for your characters. I’m lucky because I’ve written a novel about superheroes so all of my characters are stuck with their super suit colors. But it makes it easy to keep track of when crossing from the mermaid dress-up to the clearly-not-Star Wars dress-up.

 

Have any more fun ways to develop characters? Let me know through my Twitter or my Facebook! Be sure to follow my Pinterest as well for writing tips, inspiration for my own novels, and nerdy things! Also pretty dresses. Lots and lots of pretty dresses.

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The Oddity of my NaNoWriMo 2015 Experience

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

I am a very busy person.

 

In fact, at the end of October, it had reached a point in my life where if you wanted to add something to my schedule, you would have to let me know at least a week in advance. I hadn’t written anything more than a thousand words of fiction since early June and my YouTube career was on the brink of collapsing because I couldn’t keep up with the weekly upload.

 

So of course, like the sane person I am, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month despite being a full-time college student with three jobs and everything else going on in my life.

(Psst: If you’re new to this, National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short takes place in November and challenges authors to write 50,000 words in only one month. There’s no prize besides pride and you can’t even think about publishing the novel until mid-January when agencies re-open from the holiday/NaNo madness. Yay writing?)

 

Frankly, I don’t even remember exactly why I wanted to participate. I first participated in 2011 and actually won so, honestly, I never really found a point for attempting it again. I had already proven myself worthy of writing 50,000 words in one month so, in my mind, there was no point in doing it a second time. Especially since I had already written an entire novel outside of NanoWriMo so why should I reserve one month for it?

 

Although I didn’t realize it at first, my impulsive participation in NanoWriMo quickly became one of the best things that happened to me this year.

 

The almost required daily word count forced me to utilize my free time to write rather than film videos or watch Game Grumps and that made me much happier as a person. Writing has always been a passion of mine and, as I wrote in this blog post, it’s a way that helps me relax from the stress of life. It helped that since I converted filming time into writing time, I forced myself to quit worrying so much about my YouTube channel which dropped my stress level.

 

It’s almost funny how a supposedly stressful event such as NanoWriMo made me way more relaxed as a person. The only time I was truly stressed out was when I went home for break and helped my parents build their house which greatly diminished my writing time. Other than that, NanoWriMo was an absolute breeze. It was surprising to see how quickly my word count rose in the month.

 

Now if you showed this blog post to me in 2011 and first participating in NanoWriMo, I probably would’ve screamed at you.

 

In 2011, I only had two novels under my belt. The first was one I wrote in junior high and will never see the light of day as long as I’m alive and the second was the second draft of my YA superhero novel that I’m currently trying to publish. When I participated in NanoWriMo 2011, it definitely was the stress fest everyone made it out to be. I struggled to make plot points meet and constantly wrote in circles or cheated by making impossibly long names that the characters insisted on using for honor or some other poor excuse (I’m looking at you Sir Pumpsy Nickleton Harrison-Jenkins of Wales, good sir).

 

But for 2015…none of that happened. I wrote half of an authentically honest novel without much effort. Okay yeah I’ll admit that I cheated by having a deaf character that needed conversations repeated to her through sign language sometimes, but ultimately it wasn’t to the extent I abused in my 2011 NanoWriMo story. I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m more experience now that I’ve written two novels and one novel four different times (I don’t care how many drafts I have to write you will be published, Superhero Story) or the fact I didn’t force myself to tell an entire story in only 50,000 words and allowed myself to end the challenge in the middle of the book, but this NanoWriMo was an absolute breeze.

 

However, a lot of things in my life took the fall for my obsession with my newest manuscript. My YouTube channels and blog, for example, haven’t been updated at all in the month of November and honestly…I’m kind of okay with that. The channels need a re-vamp anyway to accommodate for the changing YouTube atmosphere and I needed the break to re-charge myself and focus on my one love: writing.

 

So that’s my odd NanoWriMo experience. A lot of sacrifice for a manuscript I had no investment in prior to the contest I had no interest in participating in until the day before and all of it made me a much happier person and brought me out of the funk I was in until that point. I made some new friends, I lost control of my media empire, and I remembered how great it felt to dive into a new world that I could control.

 

I just love writing and this NanoWriMo brought that love back to life. Now back to my manuscript! The first 50k words might be done, but there’s the next 50k and revisions left to go before I can even consider that the novel is done.

 

Congrats to all of my fellow NanoWriMo winners and participants! Even if you didn’t win, you’re still a winner for choosing to write and not giving up.

 

Wanna know what it’s like one year after you finish your novel? Check out my personal experience with that rude awakening here and check out my other blog posts about writing here as well.

Importance of Video and Novel Editing

Editing is the bane of any content creator’s existence. Whether you’re writing books or filming videos, editing is every artist’s least favorite part of the process. I think most writers and filmmakers can agree that they would much rather allow an entire universe exist than shrink that universe down to like maybe just one neighborhood.

But it’s also a necessary part of the process. If you’re going to present your work to an audience, editing is absolutely essential in translating one thing in your head mean the same thing in multiple heads. For filmmakers, editing is the only way to create a fully functioning story. I mean, if you just published all the raw footage you’ll most likely have a lackluster, run-on film of actors messing up and long pauses as scenes change.

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 5.03.26 PM
Also shots like this. But that’s not important.

Personally, the effort I made while editing the novel I’m currently trying to publish (Superhero Story) has reflected in my YouTube videos. It’s an odd connection, but bare with me. I swear it’ll make sense.  If you read my previous blog post about how my hobbies of YouTube and writing are connected, it’ll make even more sense.

Now Superhero Story had a rough start. I wrote the very, very first draft when I was 15 and then spent the next four-five years editing it. When I finished those edits to create the second draft, the second draft was a whopping 140k words. If you’re unaware of how big of a book that is, 140k words is roughly the size of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. For a debut YA novel, that’s roughly 70k too much. Basically I had to split my book in half. That’s a lot of editing.

Yes my first draft really was this big.

Splitting my book in half took a lot of heartbreak and lot of baby steps. For the first round of edits, I legitimately cried as I cut scenes I loved with all of my heart and tried to keep as much of my beloved novel together as I could. The more I edited and the more I pushed myself to make a lower word count, the easier it became. I even started cutting entire characters out of my novel without blinking an eye. Now, on my fifth draft, it’s sitting at a pretty 84k which is about as big as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. There really was a lot of heartbreak behind cutting that 140k to 84k, but it improved my novel by tenfold.

Current draft. Much more reasonable.

While I was going through the heartbreak of cutting my entire novel in half, I was still making videos every week on my main YouTube channel. This was before the Mercenary music video that really taught me how to edit videos,  but the experience from editing my novel really taught me a lot about editing the content of my videos.

For example, it made it a lot easier to edit out jokes that I loved but didn’t match the timing the video after I single-handedly made myself cry from cutting out my favorite scene in Superhero Story (RIP Pancake scene). The minor edits in my novel (cutting out “very”, replacing filler words, etc.) also helped speed my videos up. Once I started to notice how minor changes to my novel majorly improved it, I applied the same principle to my videos. I quickened jump cuts, added text, and created breaks in the music to set mood, timing, and create an overall better quality video.

Editing is a lot of work. There’s a lot of heartbreak involved and it’s never going to be a walk in the park. But with the right amount of practice, your content will improve overall and you will become a better creator. Unless you’re one of those “I work alone” artists that live in solitude without anyone seeing your work, then good luck with your paintings, Batman.

How to Find Time to Write

Unless you’re JK Rowling, chances are slim that you’re never going to have entire days to just write. They’ll come every once and while, but if you’re an unpublished author still in school or working a day-job then those days are rare. We have to scramble for as much time as we can before the real world rips us away from our fictional universes and that makes things stressful.

drag

Now I am somewhat of an expert on writing whenever I can. Balancing school, three jobs, YouTube, and other responsibilities have sort of granted me that superpower. It’s certainly not an ideal situation, but hey you gotta do what you gotta do.

My first tip is to convert leisure time into writing time. I’m still astonished that some writers actually have separate writing and relaxing times. Personally, I’ve never had that luxury. I started writing novels in the middle of my fastpitch softball career and combined with ambitious academic self…well leisure time was limited. I may have sacrificed TV, endless hours of Skyrim, and Game Grump playthroughs for this valuable writing time, but hey that’s what writer’s blocks are for.

writer probz

Another seemingly obvious tip is night time. When the rest of the world sleeps, you write on! It’s so much easier to focus on your writing when the rest of the world isn’t distracting you with grocery store trips or work or Netflix marathons. Some crazy people have the same mindset, but for the morning. I mean if that’s your beat, go for it. Me? I prefer to stay up until 4 in the morning and then survive off of too much coffee the next day so I can repeat the cycle that next night. Whatever ensures that I avoid that evil 6 am – 9:30 am block of time.

morning

This is the part where things get tricky because you might come across times in your life where leisure time is limited and you’re simply too exhausted to write in the night/early morning if you’re crazy.

One of my favorite methods during these crazy times is to write during class. Obviously this is a method used mostly by students and it’s very risky. Although I was once able to write a page and a half on my laptop, I’m more likely to write in a notebook. That’s mostly because I can get away with more in a notebook because the teachers think I’m taking notes and ignore me. If I have my laptop out, they’ll think I’m on Facebook or Twitter so they’ll pay more attention to me and I can’t write as much. I told you I was an expert on this sort of thing.

unsplash-writing

Then there’s also the very popular, less risky touch-n-go. That’s the method you want if you’re literally trying to schedule time to eat and breathe. Basically, you write whenever you can and when I say whenever I mean whenever. On napkins while you wait for your coffee, on your phone while you wait for a meeting you showed up early to, on the toilet paper while you…you get the picture. During high school, I wrote entire chapters on scraps of old homework. It makes it easier for when you actually return to normal writing time because you have everything written out and you can even edit it as you transcribe it into your manuscript.

oh my god
I’m just as surprised as you are that this image exists.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break. Sometimes the universe just doesn’t want you to write and it’s during those times that you swallow your pride and give up for the moment. It’s important to rest and maintain a healthy stress level. Seriously, your book will still be there once you get past the busy time. No need to let frantic napkin notes and long text messages determine the fate of your book.

Just do what’s best for you. If you’re like me and writing is your leisure time, then write when you’re stressed. If you’re absolutely freaking out about your schedule mashing with your writing time, don’t worry about the book. Do what you need to do to get your stress level down and then return to your book. It’ll always be there. You will always have the time for it in the future.

But seriously if you ever write on toilet paper, oh my god please send me a picture on my Twitter. And then next time, just watch some YouTube videos or something the next time you’re in that kind of situation. I mean I know a good YouTube channel that might peak your interests….

An Introduction to a Writer’s World

If you’ve been paying attention to my twitter these past couple of weeks, you might notice a few tweets with the hashtag “Pitch Wars.”

collage
By “few,” I mean “a lot”.

For all of my writing friends following me, it was just another pitching contest. You see some new WIPs pop up and get to know your mutuals’ MCs a little better. Some people are even lucky enough to find a CP for their WIP through Pitch Wars. Either way, it’s a fun time for everyone regardless of participation and it’s a great break from the querying trenches.

For all of my non-writing friends on Twitter, that last paragraph probably made next to no sense to you.

I’ve been brutally aware of the distinct separation between the writing world and the non-writing world since I started publishing my book.  It probably didn’t help that I didn’t tell anyone I wrote a book until I finished it, but even then my real life writing friends are few and very far away. (Hi Sarah! Hope China is swell.) I would anguish to my roommates on how one of my top agents rejected my query only to be interrupted with an abrupt “What’s a query?”

false disgusted

While this double-life of mine sort of makes me feel like Hannah Montana, I know it can be frustrating if you follow my Twitter during a pitching contest or happen to sit in on one of my writing rants. So here are some basic translations so you can survive the writer’s world too:

WIP: Work-in-progress. Generally refers to whatever manuscript the writer is currently invested in. Personally I have about nine unfinished manuscripts that I haven’t thought about since writing the first couple of lines, but I’m probably only going to talk about the one I’m working on now with about 50k words. That one would be my WIP, but some writers are talented enough to continually write more than one manuscript at a time so it depends.

MC: Short for main character. Some writers can’t shut up about theirs. I’m forcefully restrained because no one knows I’ve written a book.

CP: Critique partner. Basically your writing friend who encourages, motivates, and destroys everything you love about your book. They’re awesome people who dedicate an ungodly amount of unpaid time to your unpublished book and must be loved. It’s generally expected that if someone is CPing for you, you should CP for them as well. See Beta.

Query: The bane of every publishing author’s existence. It’s a one page, 200-250 word business letter that is supposed to make an agent/editor/publisher/other professional writer person fall in love with your book enough to represent it and later publish it. There are literal books written about this thing.

Querying Trenches: The affectionate nickname for the soul-crushing act of querying. Publishing is a war zone now. Every author is vying for their manuscript to be the best in an agent’s “slush pile” (inbox) and more often than not, it ends in heartbreaking rejection. Some authors spend years in the querying trenches. Others give up and write another book to submit to the querying trenches. It really is one of the worst parts of publishing so if a writer is venting about it, please be gentle and listen carefully. Even if you don’t fully understand, it’s good to at least try. It gives us hope that someone cares.

Pitching Contests: Yes that would mean #PitchWars, #PitMad, #PitchtoPublication…all of it. It’s an alternative to querying and it’s much less soul-crushing. You make friends, you connect with agents and other people in the business, and you improve your manuscript. Some pitching contests even allow the opportunity to pitch to agents through tweets! If you see those tweets (#PitMad, #SFFPit, etc.), it’s advised to not favorite it. I know that manuscript looks kickass, but favoriting is reserved for agents. I usually don’t yell at friends who do this because, you know, I have to write a whole blog post about the secrets of the writing world to get them to quit whining, but other writers aren’t as nice. I’ve seen some pretty nasty tweets to newbie writers who favorited tweets they liked rather than the accepted form of retweeting. It’s a harsh business.

#amwriting: The general writing tag. Most of the thread is people promoting their blog or book. You can favorite these tweets. The only bad thing from that is that it might encourage that writer to never shut up about their WIP or manuscript.

#amediting: The general editing tag. Different than writing because there are more tears.

Agents: Although not exclusively of the secret variety, these wonderful people represent a writer and their work. They don’t publish or edit, unless stated otherwise. They just take a small commission and ensure that a manuscript is shown to the right people to get it published. Writers have to make sure to query the right agent. Agents typically only represent a portion of the market.

Editor: A person hired either by the author or a publishing company to polish a writer’s manuscript. They don’t publish books either.

Publisher: These guys publish the books. Depending on what a writer wants for a book, writers can either talk to a big publisher through their agent or contact a small publisher themselves. Sometimes a writer can even publish their book themselves and that is known as “self-publishing.”

Comp Title: Also known simply as “comps,”  it’s short for comparison titles. Writers use them in their queries to give the agent/publisher/editor a better understanding of their to-be published book by using already-published books. For example, Chronicles of Narnia would be Lord of the Rings The Bible.

Beta: A critique partner, but more in-depth? To be honest, I’ve never really understood a difference. Both contribute critiques of your book, but beta’s just get a first look at it.

Now hopefully we can all be like Miley at the end of Hannah Montana: The Movie and only have a small crowd of people realize our secret double lives. The whole world doesn’t have to know the secrets of the writing world, but it’s sort of nice to have a small crowd that understands without being directly involved. So just chill it out, take it slow, and rock out the show because now you get the best of both worlds.

If you want to see another term on this list or need clarification, comment below or tweet at me. Together, we can rule the galaxy help the writer world look more sane to the non-writing world!

One Year After You Finish Your Book

The common misconception amongst new writers is that finishing your book is the hardest part of writing. Well as someone who has finished writing their book multiple times, I can assure you that you are wrong. Finishing the first draft of your book is arguably the easiest part of the process, something that I outlined better in this blog post.

Here’s a timeline of what happened in the year following when I first finished my book:

July 6th, 2014: Somehow in between 12 hour nannying shifts, a night job, and a wedding, I managed to finish my book an hour before I left for my night job. I had been working on that particular draft for about five years at that point so I nearly cried tears of joy as I typed out those final words. I thought it was over. I thought I would be published within the year. After all my book was the next Divergent, nay, Hunger Games, and agents will be crawling over themselves to represent my book.

July 7th – July 14th, 2014: Friends and family find out I’ve written a book. No seriously, I spent those five years writing my book in complete secret. When I finished it, I had no one to share the excitement with so I informed as many people as I could. There’s still people in my life to this day who have no idea I’ve written a book let alone am trying to publish it, but hey I tried.

July – August 2014: I send the draft to five friends. Only two manage to read the gigantic 140k draft and gladly inform me that while it has promise, it’s too long and boring. This information and my publishing research inform me that a 140k word draft is way too much for an experienced YA author let alone a debut YA author.

August 2014: I repeatedly break my own heart trying to trim down the 140k mammoth before I try to query agents. Once I reached the 115k point though, it was relatively easy to cut it down until I finally reached the coveted 90k.

August 12th, 2014: I finally go crazy from my writing hiatus. After all, I’ve been consistently writing for the past five years. A month long break finally broke me and I started work on the sequel. A lot of people recommend against this, but I never saw this advice until it was too late so there’s that.

August 13th, 2014: Confident in my 90k draft and with the sequel underway, I query my first agent. I insist on only querying one agent at a time because it makes more sense to me. I want to respect my future agent by promising them all of my undivided attention with single queries rather than querying them in groups. I promise myself I won’t query another agent until I hear from the first.

September 11th, 2014: After weeks of waiting for the first agent, I query my second agent. All of my research indicates that this should be fine as long as I personalize each query and never send them out in a group email. This agent also gave me my very first rejection. Although heartbroken, I was thrilled to receive that email during class. Every rejection meant I was heading a step in the right direction and this first rejection was my first step in that direction.

September 2014 – January 2015: As I balance school, writing the sequel, and maintaining my YouTube channel, I query 22 agents. 15 reject it, including the first agent I queried. I still haven’t heard from six of them, but at this point I think it’s safe to say that they’re also rejections. This isn’t the fairytale response I was expecting. I thought it would only take me a handful of agents to get to the one. But yet 22 agents have had the honor of looking at my precious manuscript and none of them wanted it. However, after multiple rewrites of my query, one agent finally requested a partial.

January 27th 2015: I had become somewhat immune to the form rejections from agents. They were constant and I received them while doing menial tasks like fixing a coffee machine or waiting for a magician’s show to start. But the rejection I received from the agent who requested a partial of my book absolutely broke me. Luckily I was visiting home from college at the time so I was able to mourn the loss in due time. I took my feelings for this rejection and put it all into doing something I should’ve done a long time ago: rewriting my opening pages. The 90k word count turned into 85k.

February 10th 2015: #AgentMatch was a contest I entered on a whim. Obviously querying agents wasn’t working, so I tried my hand at a contest. I did participate in #PitchMad with moderate success given how I only sent out two tweets, but overall I wasn’t interested in the small presses interested in my manuscript. I got lucky with #AgentMatch. My revised query that hooked the agent with the partial request put me in the showcase and attracted the attention of eight agents. At the end of the busiest day of my life, I had five full manuscript requests and three partial requests. After receiving nothing but rejection until this point, I was ecstatic and sent all of the agents their requested material very late into the night. This was it. I didn’t have to query any more agents. My fairytale was coming true.

March – April 2015: Six rejections later, I was feeling like the biggest idiot in the querying trenches. Don’t get me wrong, all of the agents were very encouraging in their letters and some even offered advice for my novel, but overall I felt like I wasted an opportunity most writers would kill for. I spent a good chunk of time throwing myself the biggest pity party in the world and editing an old NanoWriMo story I wrote years ago. Although my sequel was sitting at a pretty 60k words with only a handful of chapters left to go, I didn’t feel like writing it after its predecessor was failing so badly. I started to explore other publishing options, like small presses and self-publishing.

May 2015: I couldn’t stand the pity-party anymore. While I was wallowing in the misery of my book’s failure, other authors were fulfilling their dreams and writing these amazing books. I wasn’t about to give up without a fight. Swallowing my pride, I deleted the first half of my book (roughly 10k words) and set to work on rewriting. Most people who managed to make it through my manuscript loved the ending, but balked at the beginning. All of my rewrites to accommodate for publishing had screwed the pacing up anyway so it was about time I did something about it. I probably could’ve chosen a better time to start my rewrites than finals week though.

June 2015: Amidst moving and my night job that prevented me from writing last summer, I finish my rewrites. I send the new manuscript to my friend who helped me with the manuscript at 140k and she reports that this 84k version is much better than the original. With a new sense of confidence, I dive back into the querying process. I participate in #SFFPit to moderate success and slowly start emailing agents again. I almost forgot what it felt like to anticipate each email with a hope that one will give me the fairytale response I’ve been praying for my entire life. I’m swiftly reminded with a rejection sent within the day I emailed the agent.

July 2015: I’m participating in two contests: #pg70pit and Pitch to Publication. Whether or not I’ll succeed will be revealed in due time. But for now, I’ve been thinking about much I’ve learned in the past year. I know now that my book isn’t the next Hunger Games or Divergent and I shouldn’t be treating it with that mindset. I can now readily accept rejection and treat it as a step towards development rather than a reflection of my failure. I know the difference between every type of publication and which one works best for each type of manuscript. More importantly I know that even though this first year was a rough awakening for me regarding publishing, these next couple of years will be equally rough in trying to publish my manuscript. But the biggest part of publishing is perseverance. If you have a story worthy of being told, it will be told. It just takes time, luck, and a whole lot of gumption.

The Hard Work of Writing a Novel

“Writing is hard.”

This phrase has cursed me ever since I started work on getting my novel published. Authors say it, agents say it, editors say it…everyone says it. When I tell people I’ve written a book, I’m usually met with either disbelief or awe. It doesn’t even matter that my novel isn’t even close to publication. It just always seems like people are impressed simply because I managed to put a bunch of words together into a somewhat cohesive storyline in my free time.

But…writing isn’t hard.

It’s never been hard for me. In fact, I’ve been trying to write a book since I was seven years old. My first grand attempt at novel-writing was on an electric typewriter and it was going to be a series similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events about a family forced to move around the country. I was just trying to cope with the fact that my family was about to move so I tried to write about it. Obviously it failed because, you know, I was seven years old and using a very outdated form of technology, but the point is that even seven year olds with an affinity for reading can write.

However, writing a good novel is hard.

Anyone can write. You just need the ability to read and write to write. But it’s the strategy of creating beautiful characters with elaborate back stories, intricate plots with intertwining storylines, and putting it all to a rhythm only words can create that makes writing hard.

For example, let’s analyze the book I wrote in junior high. No, this isn’t the book I’m trying to publish. This is an entirely different book I finished writing a year before I started writing my current novel and that no one other than myself has read. There’s a reason for that. It’s because it’s terrible. Do you know why it’s terrible? Because writing a good book is hard.

Writing it was not hard. I made up a cast of characters with somewhat varying personalities, there was some plot, there were emotions, and yes technically it’s a book because it’s a somewhat lengthy story with chapters and everything. But it’s not a good novel. The dialogue is lazy, the characters are frustrating, and it’s simply rushed. There’s also the matter of using Hannah Montana and Jonas Brother song titles as chapter titles, but you know I prefer to refer to that as “artistic expression.”

very original
If you need to know anything about my music interests in junior high, my chapter guide can help.

Despite the low quality, this book was easy to write. A lot of the characters were based on people I knew with the main plot based on an event in my life so it was easy to just take those aspects directly from my life and stick it in a book. It was easy to make a cohesive plot with a central theme that remained consistent throughout the story. But if I decided that this first book was worth publishing and went back to edit it, it would actually be easier for me to completely rewrite the story than to try and salvage that mess.

It’s the same thing for the novel I’m working on publishing now. While the first draft only took me six months to finish, it took me five years to make it worthy to be read by others. Even now after almost a year after I formally finished my novel, I’m still re-writing and re-shaping my novel so that it can be worthy of publication. It has taken a lot of trial and error. My poor friends have endured many drafts and many late-night text messages that probably make no sense to them. I’ve re-written the first chapter so many times that I confuse myself on which version is being used in the most current draft. I’ve quickly learned that if I cut a novel from 140k words down to 85k words, it’s not going to be the same novel and it demands major rewrites. Even now, I’m writing this blog post to delay the major rewrites planned for the entire first half of my novel. By the time I’m done with the re-writes, I’m positive it’s going to be an entirely different novel from the initial first draft.

But even though writing a good novel is a seemingly impossible task, it’s one of the most fun challenges I’ve taken.

For all of the misery it gives me, I actually sort of enjoy re-writing portions of my book. It’s fun to see what new things I can do with a story I’ve known for over five years. I enjoy the breakthroughs after long nights of hitting my head against my desk trying to think of a new plot point. Trying to rewrite an entire novel you already finished is tough and heartbreaking, but it’s so worth it when you know you’re just making your story the best possible quality you can make it.

Writing a good novel can be hard, but if you truly love writing and believe in your heart that your story is worth sharing then it’s the easiest thing you can do.