Today, I want to talk about vigilance in the life of a writer.
Vigilance in storytelling.
When I started writing, I believed there was a point where a writer would know everything. I believed I would reach a point where I no longer had to improve my storytelling craft. Boy, was I ever wrong. I finally came to the conclusion that the more I learned about storytelling, the more I had to learn.
The goal is to make your next story better than the last. It should flow better. The characters should be more real to the reader (and to you). The point of view should be sharper. The setting should compliment the characters’ needs a lot better. Etc. The point is, all elements that go into telling a story should be fine-tuned with each story you write.
If you’re going to write longterm, just be aware that improving the craft of telling a story is a journey. If you can look back on your early books and shiver (because they were “so awful”), then you know you’re getting better. That’s great news. I know it sucks to think your older stories are “awful”, but really, it’s a good thing. It means you improved. It means you grew as a writer. It means you’re better today than you were yesterday, and you’ll be even better in the future…if you keep it up.
Treating writing like a job.
Sometimes it’s easy to get lazy. Actually, it’s always easy to get lazy. What’s hard is staying vigilant. Writing is hard work. Yes, it’s fun. It’s something we chose because we enjoy it, but it’s still work.
There are times the work will seem like play. The words come easily, and your word count is amazing that day.
But there are other times where each word feels like you’re pulling teeth. It is not always easy to write. Things going on in real life can definitely impact your motivation to write. Some writers find taking a break works best. On occasion it does for me, too, but most of the time, I have to sit and write. Even if it’s only a couple hundred words, those couple hundred words help me get back into the story, and the next day is usually better. Maybe not a ton better. But a little better. So on day 1, maybe I only manage 250 words. Day 2, I might manage 500. And so on.
Sometimes you can’t wait until you feel like writing to write, especially if you need the income to help pay the bills. That’s why vigilance is key. Don’t rush the story just to get it out. I know it’s tempting because each new story means the potential for more money in your pocket. But each story needs to be savored like fine wine. Remember the pacing and tell your character’s journey as she wants you to tell it. Honor your reader with each book you write. Give them a complete and fulfilling story.
Vigilance can be hard when sales are down or someone leaves you a nasty review. Maybe you want to give up. I get it. I’ve been wanting to give up for most of this year so far, even though I’ve been showing up to work almost every day and typing out the next story. What keeps me going is treating it like a job. Usually, once I get 500 words in, I get my motivation. But each day is like pulling teeth to get the first couple hundred words out. It’s not easy. That’s why this post on vigilance is just as much for me as it is for anyone else who can relate to it. 🙂
A slightly different take on Vigilance is on my blog for V day too! The growth and getting sharper with the skills is important as a writer, and others. Good to remember!
Ninja Minion, A-Z 2016
I’ll have to check out how you handled Vigilance. 🙂 It’s neat to see we picked the same word!
I saw you blog and realized I misunderstood what you were saying. 🙂 Sorry about that. This is what I get for reading comments at almost midnight. I really did enjoy your post. You seem to have a great sense of humor.
Excellent post. The A to Z Challenge is a good exercise in showing up at the page no matter what! That’s what gets the writing done. Molly of Molly’s Canopy http://mollyscanopy.com/
That is so true! It’s really gotten me to buckle down and write. 🙂
Vigilance is a great reminder for writers. Just what I needed to hear today! Thanks for writing these blogposts, Ruth. They’ve been super helpful 🙂
Thanks, Lorna! I’m just put together a book on the emotionally engaging character and will be having an editor look it over before publishing it. Thanks for the suggestion on it. If there’s any angle I haven’t hit on with any of the blog posts, let me know. I took out a couple of them from the A – Z Challenge when they fit the topic. The book will be short. Only 8500 words, but I can’t think of anything else to add. So if you can come up with something else I failed to hit on, feel free to let me know. 🙂
That’s so great that you’ve put together the book on the emotionally engaging character, Ruth 🙂 I can’t wait to read it! I do have another book idea(not sure if you’d be interested in writing it)… but I think many fiction writers could learn so much from you on tips on understanding the tropes & readers expectations for genres like: western romance; regency; mail order bride novels etc. Just a thought 😉 I think you’ve covered the main areas with the blog posts… and it will be super helpful for novelists! Thanks for all your hard work and time putting together these posts and the book !
Sure, I can explore tropes. Let me take time to think of the topic. It’d be a fun one to do. 🙂
I’m learning a lot in writing these posts. I’m glad you’re giving me these great ideas!
Happy to share ideas Ruth! And thanks for exploring the topic of tropes… it’s something that’s not really talked about a lot, but it seems to be important(even on a subconscious level) when readers pick up a book they want to read.
I really think these are topics you’ve done so well as you’ve written books and other writers could learn so much from your tips and experience 😉
I agree that readers do pick up books based on certain tropes they enjoy. Just recently, I went to my Facebook page and asked my readers what kind of heroine and hero they liked to help mold a plot idea, and I was surprised by how many historical western romance readers like the plain Jane who is sweet trope. I need to do this kind of thing more because it does help to get an idea of what they are looking for.
Thank you, Lorna! 😀
That’s so interesting that readers of historical western romance, said they liked the plain Jane who is sweet trope. Hmmm, that is something to think on… 😉 I should ask readers on my Facebook page what kind of hero and heroine they like too… I think I would learn a lot from them. I’m learning so much from you Ruth, thanks!
I was surprised that trope came up several times in one comment. Right now I’m getting The Emotionally Engaging Character book edited. After I get it uploaded to Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers, I’ll announce its release on this blog so you can have it on your reading device. 🙂
After that, I’m going to delve into tropes. I’m starting to get interested in this topic. I’m glad you mentioned it!
Such true words!