Passion

As any good writer knows, you can’t wait for inspiration to write. Not if you want to write for a living. It’s a muscle that needs to be trained. You can write without the muse and can still end up writing good material. There are better posts than this one all about art versus the craft of writing, but I can condense it all down for you. Spoiler alert, it usually boils down to discipline.

No. For today, I want to talk about Inspiration’s sister, passion.

Yes, it’s possible to write without passion, but your readers will feel it. Passion for what you’re working on infuses every word on the page. It’s what keeps that excitement and energy going through the marathon slog from that first blank page to writing “The End” thousands upon thousands of words later.

I’m not a full time writer. I have a day job I need to balance with my (hopefully) burgeoning writing career. So that means, I can only really work on one project at a time. I’m trying to be better about that, though. The best I can do right now is while I wait for edits on one book, I’m doing the research, brainstorming, and worldbuilding for the next one so by the time I’m completely finished Book A, I’m all set for Book B.

I had the kernel of an idea: scientists discover a beacon from the deep and go down to investigate. I worked and worked on it until it became this story about a crashed spaceship and extraterrestrial cover ups. Hence, my last post about the research I was doing. But then something happened. The story became more about the government conspiracy than what originally got me excited about the project in the first place: exploring the deep, dark ocean.

Ideas change. Concepts evolve as you work on them. Your end result rarely looks like what you originally thought it would be. These things tend to happen. But somewhere along the way, I’d completely lost the passion I once held for the project. It started feeling like something I had to do and not something I wanted to do. I’m not going to lie, I actually got pretty depressed about it.

Here I’d spent all this time working on an outline and characters and concept for something that was going to make me miserable to work on it. Or I could throw it all away and start fresh, wasting all of that development time making me miserable for squandering resources.

It was a hard decision, but ultimately, I decided to start something new. Well, new-ish. I’ve been cooking up a fantasy setting for quite some time and while I was waiting for reader feedback from my last novel, I wrote a “practice” short story in that world to test the worldbuilding waters so to speak. Turns out I love it. So much so, that I’m working on selling that piece and I now want write an entire novel in that setting.

I wanted someone to tell me it was okay to abandon the other work and switch to something else. Once I made that decision for myself, though, I knew it was the right one. I’m not one to give up or chase flights of fancy. I like to think I have pretty good work ethic – hence why I was feeling bad about the situation. But this has already proven to be the right decision.

I have passion for this new story. My initial concept for it morphed and changed and grew from that tiny kernel just the like the other one did, but I didn’t lose the spark this time. I’m excited to get started. Excited to work on these characters. Excited to see this world. It’s my most ambitious novel yet and I should be quaking in my boots. Honestly, the spaceship one might be easier. But go big or go home, right?

That’s not to say that all the research and work I’ve done on the other story is totally wasted. Who knows? Maybe I’ll come back to it one day and resurrect it in some form or another. Or maybe I’ll pick at its corpse for the stuff I still like. I really do plan on writing a novel about a discovery at the bottom of the ocean. But for right now, it looks like I’ll be writing something else.

So while you can’t wait for inspiration to strike, you can at least lean into the work you enjoy doing. Your enthusiasm will help carry you through. If you’re not excited about the book, why would your readers be?

Summer Coat

There’s been some debate about the emphasis of story structure before you even begin writing over the years. As usual, it comes down to what kind of writer you are. The biggest knock against it is that having too much of your story beats planned out takes the fun out of writing it in the first place. It becomes too formulaic. Too dull. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I need to label myself into a writing category, I’m probably most like a “plotter.” I need an outline to show me where I’m going and as a resource to collect all of the random scraps and pieces and I can’t use in my current scene but I know will show up later. My outlines tend to be detailed in some places and incredibly vague in others. It’s my road map that gets me where I need to go.

This is the first time that I built in actual story structure beats right into the outline. Up until now, I’d like to think that I had an intuitive notion of what needs to go where. I wasn’t always right, but that’s kind of the point. So this time, I have the thing divided into the four typical parts with a few notes to myself at each junction to remind me not to make the protagonist too awesome yet or remember, the guy should be scared at this point.

It’s definitely helping keep the story on track, but more than that, all of these beats give me something to shoot for. Normally, I’m driven by A.) the ending and B.) at least one really cool scene that I’ve been thinking about since I’d even begun writing. But now, in addition to A and B, I have all of these smaller destinations to gear up for. If anything, I feel that it’s helping my pacing and lets my story breathe as I work up to such and such and then fall back down again for the effects. Established writers, you may be smacking your foreheads right now and saying “duh,” but I wanted to point this out for anyone else who’d been teetering on the fence with me. This whole novel so far has just been chock full of revelations for me.

So much so that I was able to convince my wife to let me write when we go away next week. When it comes to our Disney vacations, I write like a maniac beforehand and then make up my lost work afterward. Usually, we’re too busy during the trip for me to get any time to actually sit down and write. If anything, the only battle I pick is to go running a few mornings before whatever else she has planned starts. This time around, we have next to nothing going on. That’s the whole point. We want some rest and relaxation and with her being uber pregnant, she’s going to want to take it easy. It was her idea for me to bring the netbook this time!

Another thing I wanted to mention …

It’s shedding season, so that’s awesome. I pulled all of this off of my dog last night.

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Here’s a closeup and a sandal to show the scale.

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I’m seriously considering saving all of her fur and stuffing a pillow. Then I will send that gross pillow to my brother because who really wants a pillow stuffed with dog fur?

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Regardless, she looks pretty happy.

I probably won’t be posting next week. All of that time will be used for writing, running and probably eating instead. Hope you all have a good week and I’ll see you when we get back!