“It takes you that long to write a book?”

A question clearly giving away that someone has never written or finished a book in their entire life. Writer whether aspiring or otherwise go through a series of people who love pretending they know what it means to be a writer. Less than pleasant but well-intentioned is usually the nicest way to describe them but this post is not to completely bash this collection of people. Instead I wanted to touch on the three points usually involved in the writing process.

These are obviously based on my experiences and every writer will vary on their process but what you see in print or in online book stories has a gruelling journey that no one sees. Hopefully with a few words on this post, people (especially non-writers) can understand why it takes someone that long to write a book.

The Idea

Everyone has these. Ideas. Ideas to write this story, for that art piece, this movie etc. This usually does not differentiate from a writer to anyone else because ideas come in so many forms. There are also an endless amount of people who have the idea to write a book. I am sure you have heard at least five people in your life tell you that they want to write a novel someday.

Generally, they just have an idea of writing a book not an idea for a book.

One in five of them is probably going to have a plot or character to run off of. This is because when you want to become a writer, the idea of writing a book is already inevitable. It already exists in the back of your head that you are going to write a book or creative piece. Because for you, there is literally nowhere else you could possibly put this idea. If you don’t understand that concept then well it seems not everyone can just be a writer after all.

What a shock.

The Plan

So we are going back to the five people. Let us say two people end up with a plan for their story.

A plan is essentially fleshing out the story from plot points, characters, settings, arcs in whichever order a writer wants to do so. Most of the time writers will stop here because the plot does not have engaging characters or the character does not have a suitable plot. The setting is too overused and the arc is too stale. Or like Rachel Greene, you are not a seasoned typist. There are a million many reasons why certain stories and plans get dumped.

What differentiates a writer from everyone else is that this is simply a stage to recover from rather than a reason to quit altogether. If you truly believe you are happy being a writer and making stories then treat this point as a way reassess your approach and planning.

The story I am currently working on was originally an idea and plan I had when I was eleven. Since then, it went through over six different plot changes, a full character list name change, settings restructured and overall the whole message of the story itself transformed into something more suited to what I was comfortable with writing.

It also became a lot darker and involves more mature themes partially due to the fact I was a child back when the idea surfaced. Despite the idea itself being a decade old, once I stepped back to reassess the things that needed to be changed, the planning stage became something I could dedicate myself into finishing.

If an idea can last in a piece of paper for ten years undergoing changes then I am sure it is going to take a little more than a month to finish a six hundred page book.

The Draft and Story

Two people now move onto the draft which frankly not even writers can tolerate this part. The most irritating and important part of the writing process is the first draft (or alternatively just you starting the story).

The first draft is irritating because it is essentially the “worst” version of your story that no-one is going to read. This is where writers also topple over and give up since the first version of any story looks and sounds a little bad. I remember the first version of my current story was absolutely cringe-worthy and I hope they never see the light of day again but it marks the start of a journey that is very satisfying once you have that full story in hand.

This is the point people start ignoring what it takes to make a creative written piece.

In a lot of peoples head it goes:

Basic Idea ⇨ Finished story handed to me in a month because I gave the author vague writing advice that one time

What really goes on (things may differ with each writer):

Basic Idea ⇨ Plan ⇨ Plotting ⇨ Characterizing ⇨ Setting Structure ⇨ Drafting ⇨ Stuck ⇨ Story Arc ⇨ Character Arc ⇨ Drafting ⇨ Stuck ⇨ Connection Charting (optional) ⇨ Drafting ⇨ Finishing ⇨ Crying ⇨ Editing ⇨ Nervous Breakdown ⇨ Polishing ⇨ Insecurities ⇨ Beta Reading ⇨ More Insecurities and Nervous Breakdown ⇨ Posting/Publishing

Referring back to my fan-fiction post, it is also important to note that a lot of writers do post finished stories even though you might not see them because they are creating their training platform.

Creative writing courses may exist but for the vast majority, a structured schooling system can only teach you so much. So writers eventually have to branch out on their own and figure out their style and reader audience sometimes in ways like posting a fan-fiction on Ao3 or an original fiction on Wattpad.

Despite my views on After, I will admit, thanks to Anna Todd, the idea of posting stories on Wattpad does not seem like a far-fetch chance to gain professional opportunity.

These online platforms get feedback from regular readers (not professional authors, creative writing PHD holders, critics or a relative who did a law degree and may know more about creative writing than you do simply because law requires heavy writing) but the people who actually click or buy books (in the genre you write in) on a normal basis and genuinely enjoy them no matter who or where they are from.

Concluding Thoughts

Writing stories is not easy and if you cannot understand that then try to refrain from giving advice to aspiring writers. I will never stop stressing this fact but writing is very personal so to do this requires being extremely vulnerable and open about feelings or emotions that one cannot express in direct conversation. Your mind is essentially pouring out onto paper which is terrifying. So it is imperative if you are speaking to an aspiring writer who trusts you enough to tell you about their creative piece, please respect that trust. And analyze how much you know/understand in this particular field before you try to give advice.

Most importantly it does not matter if it takes you a month or six years to write a book. Authors do not have age limits or fixed retirement dates. Keep writing and believe me, it feels so good when you write that final word even if you never post it (though once you finish something, it is extremely tempting to put it somewhere honestly). Just do what you love and everything will follow through!

– Ashley.

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