Yes, you read the title right, folks. Today, right here, right now, I’ve decided to reveal to you all the true secret of writing, as I see it: the one, singular quality any person can have that could make them capable of creating and publishing their own book. Prepare to have your world rocked.
And reveal in three…two…one…drum roll please…
Perseverance. It’s all about perseverance. Just let the wisdom soak on in.
Okay, maybe I should actually explain myself a little bit first.
All joking aside, in reality there’s a lot of things that go into writing a book. You have to have an idea, as in plot, characters, setting, and all the particulars in terms of content in line, or at least as much in line as you feel comfortable with. Of course, the complexity and amount of planning also entirely depends on the nature of your story. If it’s a heavy sci-fi space opera-type epic, I know from experience that world-building an entire universe of races, planets, and cultures from scratch is a daunting and time-consuming task as opposed to, for example, writing about a normal person going about their day in the present. Then there’s publishing: however you chose to do it, it can be a long and grueling process of searching for a publisher or formatting, editing, and finalizing your book before it ever sees the light of day.
But as I said, I truly believe that boiled down into its simplest terms, the most important quality a prospective writer can have is perseverance: the will, desire, and capability to embark on a project and see it through, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes. Because trust me, it can take a long time and be very frustrating.
When I first started by debut novel, “The Showstopper!”, I was in my junior year of high school. If I’m being honest, I didn’t really start getting serious about it until I was in college, and even still, by the time it got published, it was September of 2014. I graduated just that previous June. So that’s about four years (six if I’m being generous) that it took to produce a book of around 300 pages. Perhaps some might disagree with me, but I think that’s a pretty long time all things considered. My second book, “Camp Ferguson”, first started getting put down on paper about halfway through college, and it’s still not finished to this day. Of course, there are reasons for this: to hear what they are, you can check out my previous post on the challenges of humor writing. But the fact is that “Camp Ferguson” has been through rewrite after rewrite, and at least three different times I’ve completely scrapped an entire novel and started from scratch at the beginning. Granted, it’s looking like “Camp Ferguson” may be significantly shorter than “The Showstopper!” was, and I may be finished as soon as the end of this year (cross your fingers), but again, that’s almost four years in development at this point.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times I felt like just throwing in the towel and giving up with these and any number of other stories I’ve worked on, but the bottom line is that when this happened, I just took a deep breath, stepped back for a while, took as much time as I needed to get excited about the story again, and got back to work. It even shows in my everyday writing as well: I know some people can commit to just sitting down and writing for an hour a day or something like that, but I don’t work that way. I can go weeks without writing a single word because I’m not feeling “in the mood” or “inspired”, and then suddenly churn out three chapters in a few days. The key is no matter how you work or what your schedule is, in addition to whatever else is going on in your life to give you even less time for your writing, you have to make time for it if you really want to succeed. You have to be willing to just let the process happen however is best for you, regardless of whether that takes a few months, or even a few years.
I know a lot of people, myself included, don’t really love feeling out of control of your own destiny like this, but you can’t force good writing. You really can’t. And if you think you need to improve on your writing, you also need the perseverance to go through the editing and publishing process and endure other people’s criticism and however much time it takes to get it to a point that you and your editors are satisfied with, or do any other work you think you need to do. I’m still needing a little bit of perseverance to not get down on myself for how commercially poor my book has done so far.
I know it’s a difficult process, but all I can say is to stick with it. If you do, the pride and accomplishment you’ll feel once you’re a published author, no matter what happens afterward, will be totally worth all the work and time you put in.