I think for me writing has always been about the process…and for most serious writers I would assume that it would be the same.
Putting pen to paper and expecting that your prose will lead you to a career like a Grisham or Paterson or Steel is not sustainable to the craft. True writers do it, because they love it and have some level of talent for stringing words, sentences and paragraphs together that tells a cohesive story regardless if it is a thousand word essay or 300 page novel.
I’ve often told others that once you have it down on paper or in my case computer, that is only the beginning. What separates a professional from a novice is the ability to go over and over your work until it has been honed into something that reflects your best ability to communicate your intent to the reader. And usually less is more.
The first pass comprises a collection of all that you love, followed by a ruthless cutting of anything that compromises your message. Cut the fat and all that inhibits the forward progress of your story.
At the end of the process, you’re left with the shiniest result of your effort. It should reflect the best you can achieve. You owe that to the people who will spend their time with your work.
So while process is important, the project should be chosen with intent. I have enjoyed writing novels, non-fiction, scripts, essays and short stories. And I will say that there was a time that having my work touted for films did ignite my wildest expectations. It’s hard to be objective when folks beside your mom love your writing.
As I progressed and became once again grounded, I realized that being famous would be great, but choosing projects that have a more modest opportunity for some financial success would now be my earmark for committing to the process. I love to write, but I also have a strong business sense that lends me to evaluating a project before committing my soul to it.
Once in, I’m all in and I want the result to be the best of what I can offer a reader. I believe a healthy respect for those consumers who spend time and sometimes money for access to a writer’s creation should be the cornerstone of that particular work.
I should also mention that while I strive to do my best, there comes a point where you have to yield to the end of the process. One of my great friends and writing partner, the late Dan Lynch who I collaborated with and co-wrote “Into the Dragon’s Teeth” failed to heal that message when he penned his first novel which ended up being 1200 pages in length when he turned it into his publisher.
No one gets a 1200 page novel published, especially a first time author. It’s a writer’s job to make decisions and as I often kidded Dan, he didn’t make any. The editor cut about 900 pages from this effort, it must have felt like losing a leg…or two. Brennen’s Point ended up being an epic and enjoyable read, but what pain he had to endure.
My advice is love the process, make the hard editing decisions and choose projects that when finished satisfy your end goal.
Now If you have the passion, why not get to work!