How a Book Is Born, Part 10

Doing the work, whatever the work is, requires understanding the work. I wouldn’t have taken on this challenge (and thought I could succeed) if I had never written a romance before. There’s no way I could have learned all I needed to learn about writing romance in thirty days. What I am doing is in some ways quite straightforward: I’m doing what I already know how to do, I’m just doing it faster. If I didn’t know what I was doing, all the slogans and “atta girl!”s in the world wouldn’t make any difference. I wouldn’t succeed.

What I notice is that a lot of people don’t understand the work they want to do, and they don’t take the time to gain that understanding. There are people who have contempt for romance who try to write romance because they think it’s easy. (There are people who try to write children’s and YA for the same reason, despite never reading the genre. The list goes on.)

While I suppose you can “understand” something you have contempt for, it’s very difficult to do the work required to succeed under those conditions. Mostly because it’s a lot of work. I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend a lot of time on things I think are ridiculous or pointless or unimportant, and I don’t care enough about them to do them right.

To understand what you need to do, you have to care about what you do. Start from there.

When you’re trying to understand the work – and to do the work – naturally you will look to others along the way for help and guidance. You can’t do the work completely in isolation, although you do need a lot of time alone with your butt in that chair. You have to find out if you’re succeeding at your endeavor, and that means getting feedback.

How you get better at doing the work is by figuring out where you are going wrong. The feedback tells you. Now, some feedback is more important than other feedback. Who cares what Joe on the street says? (That doesn’t mean you should be rude to Joe on the street. You have my permission to ignore him, but you don’t have my permission to berate him.)

On the other hand, if nineteen agents tell you that you don’t have the first clue what a romance is, then it’s quite possibly you don’t have a clue what a romance is. Shaking your fist at them for telling you the news and saying, “I’ll show you!” is what ten year olds do and it doesn’t help you get better.

Care about the work. Learn about the work. Be open to guidance. Do the work.

A few of my favorite things

LESSONS IN MAGIC
A CERTAIN KIND OF MAGIC
THE IMPROBABLE ADVENTURES OF A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN
DOJO WISDOM FOR WRITERS

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