Tuesday, July 07, 2020

3 Reasons You Should Quit Writing

By Orly Konig, @OrlyKonig

Part of The Writer's Life Series

JH: When the writing gets hard, some writers wonder if they should just quit. Orly Konig shares three reasons to quit writing--and one reason not to.

Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around her cats. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She’s a book coach and author of The Distance Home and Carousel Beach.

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Take it away Orly…

2020 has turned into the year many of us are triple guessing why we’re writing. I’ve lost track of the number of author friends who’ve said they’re struggling with finding the motivation to write.

A few weeks ago, I was giving a writer friend who was struggling with getting back into her story a pep talk. I was pretty darn convincing, too. Until it was time to get back to my own writing and suddenly, every word I said to her seemed like a bowl of stale rainbow sprinkles. And that sent me armpit deep into a trough of whiny whys.

With that in mind, I’m going to give you three solid reasons why quitting this writing gig may, indeed, be the way to go:

1. Writing is hard.

How many times have you encountered a well-meaning friend or stranger who, once they hear you’re a writer, announced, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. You know what, I’m going to do it. You’re doing it, so can I”? And you smiled and politely responded, “Yes, you absolutely should,” instead of telling them that creating dreadlocks on a lion would be easier.

Writing is hard. You’re creating people, worlds, lives out of the chaos in your brain. Those people have to talk to each other, they have to do things, think things, grow and learn from those things. They have to be people that perfect strangers will relate to and cheer for (or collectively hate). Your settings have to be vivid and your action has to be plausible. Then 10k into writing, that story idea that sounded like the next big un-put-downable blockbuster turns into a jumble of words that meander and skip around plot points that feel like a navigation system gone rogue.

After you’ve written 90-some thousand words, you’ll probably have to scrap several thousand of those painfully bled words. You’ll have to revise then revise again. You’ll realize that your character went from brunette to redhead without ever opening a tube of hair color. Or that a key scene takes place two days before the inciting incident because you didn’t keep track of days. Or that the heart-achingly beautiful scene in chapter 12 does absolutely nothing to further the story.

And the moment you’ve hit send on what you’re sure is a brilliantly written, perfectly edited manuscript, you’ll have that a-ha moment on what the story is missing.

(Here's more on Why Writers Could Give Up… And Why They Shouldn't) 

2. Writing is heartbreaking.

writing women's fiction, genre, chick lit, character-driven novels
Orly Konig
You’ve persevered through the 15 rounds of revision and you now have a shiny, ready-to-submit manuscript. You send it to agents and you just know that at least 126 of the 128 you’ve queried will love it and offer. Except you end up with 147 rejections ranging from form letters to the rainbow sprinkled “great but” emails. And you can’t wrap your head around why everyone else is signing seemingly overnight with their dream agent.

But you keep at it, and you finally find that one agent who adores your writing. Together you go through another round (or four) of revisions before sending out your even shinier manuscript to editors. You fantasize about the cover and seeing your book in bookstores and prepare yourself for the exciting news that every publishing house is ready to make you a star. Until the “passes” start rolling in. 

(Here's more on Authors: What to Do When You Want to Quit)

3. Writing is an exercise in frustration.

We’re taught that if you work hard, do your best, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. If you study in school, you’ll get good grades. If you work hard at your job, you’ll get raises and promotions.

The publishing industry, unfortunately, doesn’t necessarily follow that philosophy. You could write the perfect book that gets rejected by your dream agent because she has another one with too many similarities. Or publishers are saturated and are acquiring very few new projects in the genre you’re writing. Or the cover and marketing campaign fell short of the target numbers.

You’ve done everything those blog posts, magazine articles, conference sessions told you to do and still your reviews are hovering at the less-than-impressive numbers or the rejections keep piling up.

And if that wasn’t enough, add a pandemic to the mix and suddenly your books are out of stock because distributors are closed or responses are slower because publishers aren’t making decisions or that story idea that was perfect before the world-as-we-knew-it changed suddenly hits too many wrong notes.

Publishing is an exercise in frustration because so much of what happens is beyond our control.

(Here's more on Arrggghhh!!!: Writer Frustrations, and Hopefully, a Few Answers)

Now that you have three can’t-argue-with excuses to quit, here’s the one reason you shouldn’t …

Writing is the best job ever!

We get to dream up worlds. We create people (people we don’t have to feed or drive all over town at least). And we get to tell stories that touch others.

Above my computer I have the following quote taped to the wall:
I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. – Joss Whedon
I write because I love stories. I write because creating stories gives me peace. And right now, that peace is the only thing I can control.

About Carousel Beach

A cryptic letter on her grandmother’s grave and a mysterious inscription on a carousel horse leads artist Maya Brice to Hank Hauser, the ninety-year-old carver of the beloved carousel she has been hired to restore in time for its Fourth of July reopening in her Delaware beach town. Hank suffers from Alzheimer’s, but on his “better” days, Maya is enthralled by the stories of his career. On his “off” days, he mistakes her for her grandmother—his secret first love.

While stripping chipped layers of paint from the old horse and peeling layers of fragmented memories from the old man, Maya untangles the intertwined secrets of love, heartbreak, and misunderstandings between three generations of strong willed women.

You can read the first chapter on the Forge/Tor blog.

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  1. I read thrillers. I read science fiction. After years of writing non-fiction I am trying to write a science fiction thriller in my retirement. No surprise there. I don't know what I am doing but I will get there.

    Your article was OK, your sample for Carousel Beach a delight. I want to write like that, to caress the reader and draw them in. Thank you for that, it's on my Kindle for the evening read.

    Be well...

  2. After 40 novels and approx 30 yrs of writing and a day job, I'm tired...and my focus has changed.