Friday, September 16, 2011

Writing VS. Writing For Publication

Okay, so I sort of feel like this post should go up on a Tuesday, as it's sort of a confessional. I don't know, I guess all my posts are like a confessional. I mean, seriously.

I just want to say this: Writing is totally different than writing for publication. One is fun; one is suffocating. One is you writing whatever you want. The other is freaking out because your draft is a terrible no-good piece of trash, and you'll never get it right. One is why you started writing, the other is why you keep writing.

I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, because I'm not. I'm simply saying that once you publish a book, you can't go back. (I may have stolen this post idea from Suits--which is the best. show. ever. Watch it. Love it. Let's chat.)

You can't go back to being not-published. You can't go back to your suckish ways. Everything you produce has to be "publishable."

That's where the choking fear comes in. And the suffocation. And the reason you keep writing. It's a blessing and a curse to be writing for publication.

In the past, I've had what I called a "pet project" that I wrote. No one knew about it, and I allowed myself to stink it up, be as indulgent as I wanted, and leave gaping plot holes. I quit doing that about a year ago, when life got crazy and I actually had to produce a book that will be published.

I miss that pet project time. So, today, I will take back my writing. I will do both: write for publication, and simply write for me.

Are you enjoying your writing time? Why or why not? Do you have a pet project, where you allow yourself to write badly?

58 comments:

Talli Roland said...

Oh. My. God.

I *so* hear you. I think that's why I struggled so much writing the firts draft of my second novel for publication. With every word I wrote, I could hear that voice... 'This sucks! Mwah ha ha! Imagine what those reviewers will say! Imagine how much people who liked your first novel will hate this!'

It was so hard to overcome that and just get back to the joy of writing. Thank you for sharing this -- now I know I'm not alone!

Talli Roland said...

Er, 'first' draft. Yes.

Miranda Hardy said...

I'm right there with you. Although I'm heading to publication, I feel the pressure of writing a publishable book. When I ventured on this journey, I didn't realize all the hard work that would go into it.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm still writing for me, but I'm working hard to make sure each book I work on is publishable in case that book is The One. Either way, I love to challenge my writing to be like some of my favorite authors. You know, deliciously awesome. :D

Jemi Fraser said...

And this would be one of the reasons pressing Send on those queries is so terrifying and I'm not rushing to get there too fast! :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I do worry about the pressures of writing a book on deadline that's good enough after getting published. With a full time job and my daughter's busy schedule I worry about doing it. That's one reason I'm moving slower on querying and have faith that if getting an agent/selling a book is meant to happen later, it'll be okay. I'll have more time to devote to it all.

Natalie Zaman said...

Totally felt this--those are the days you just want to escape, but then you can't because your fingers start to itch and you just HAVE to write... <3 Well said, as always

Laura Pauling said...

Right now, I'm totally working on a project that I'll probably never revise for publication. I'm experimenting, writing outside my genre, and doing it to challenge myself in the areas I need to grow, even if I go overboard!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Pet projects? I guess that's what I call my diary and my blog. Novels are a step above that, even if they aren't yet published. I grasp the certainty that they will like a child to a sucker. I think we need both. And afterall, the "pet" project can eventually lead to a "published" project. Right?

Creepy Query Girl said...

that sounds like a fantastic idea, great compromise and I'll bet you find that once you are writing for pleasure, it will spread to the areas where you're writing as a 'job' and hopefully make things easier! Good luck!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I knew about the other side of the fence, the place with the abundant roses--publication. And while I'm not quite there, I've found as I've made my way further I can see it isn't all roses. There are thorns. Blood. Sweat. And tears.

I knew this, but as most unpubbed writers do, I didn't (or couldn't) fully grasp it.

Intriguing words here.
~ Wendy

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I can relate! I did enjoy writing the second one, but I'm really feeling the pressure for the third.

Nisa said...

I can totally see this. I'm glad I'm still in the writing for me stage. I don't think I'd be able to handle the other until my kids are in school and I have more time.

Heather Kelly said...

Suits is awesome!

I think that we can all relate, whether published or not. I can image the scary factor is ramped up 50 fold after publishing a first book. You need a superhero shield to protect you from the doubts. Or maybe Wonder Woman's invisible plane to fly high above them!

B.E. Sanderson said...

My pet project where I allow myself to write sucky is called 'every first draft I've done since I gave myself permission to suck'. ;o)

The work comes later when I'm editing - and that can be fun, too, but it's mostly just work.

storyqueen said...

Yes. Every project I start is mine and only mine. Eventually, sometimes, they are good enough to polish up, but sometimes not.

and that is okay.

Shelley

Andrea Mack said...

I totally can see where you're coming from. Even though I haven't had a novel published yet, it's so clear that what I like and have fun writing may not be fitting into the market. Sometimes, the novels I'm working on for publication creep along so slowly, because I'm agonizing over everything.

Deana said...

Good for you!I am no where near published but I do know that I freak out over deadlines even if I give them myself. Something about us humans and our contrilling nature I suppose:)
Just remember you are awesome! Take back your writing and I'll bet the publishable work will be that much better.

L.G.Smith said...

I worry about that. The pressure to follow up your first published book with a second one that's just as good has got to be intimidating to say the least. Big respect to all of you who do it.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I have a lot of short stories that are just for me and no one else.

Carolyn V said...

I was in a crit group with an award winning author (for about a month, so really not that long), who said she was having too much pressure from writing. She had finished her third book and just wanted a break.

It scared me a little. I won't lie.

Abby said...

I love the honesty of this post. It's something I actually think about. The stress of being published! Agh. I like the idea of the pet project. Keep your sanity while losing it! I love to write, but when it comes time to start querying I start to get that nauseous feeling - is this really good enough? Should I wait? All the typical questions. It can be aggravating.

Patti said...

I've often wondered if I could handle the pressure that would come from writing a book for publication, it's definitely something that worries me. But I guess you'll never know unless you try.

Emily said...

I'm still languishing in the lovely haze of pre-published bliss. And don't think I haven't thought of this before. When I get too carried away on the *I wish* or *if only* I bring myself back to reality and think, I'm just writing this for me. I'm writing because I like to write and I like to tell stories and I like to work my brain.

And, when I need a break, I take one. And I don't worry about any deadlines.

Thanks for this perspective!

Ron Smith said...

I enjoy my writing time. I'm still seeking rep, so I have a lot of time to write and obsess over checking my emails.

As for a pet project, no, not really. I have a bunch of ideas and am trying to figure out which one I should dedicate my time to. I don't have a project where I just write away and not worry about all the hard stuff. Everything I am working on has to have some kind of viable future. If that makes sense.

Shallee said...

I haven't experienced the pressure of publication, but I do have the pressure of writing the "next" book. Whenever I finish a book (after six bajillion drafts), the next one always frustrates me. It's like I forget that the last one DID take six bajillion drafts to get it where I wanted it, and I think my new one should look like the last one after only a few thousand drafts.

I try to remind myself that it's a process, and each book is different. When I do that, it's easier to just have fun with it and let the pressure go.

J said...

Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that writing is fun. I get caught up in making sure that everything I do is publishable, just in case I query an agent someday and they love it. I give myself gentle reminders (frequently) that writing is fun, and if it's not fun, I won't want to do it forever. And then I write something indulgent. :P

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I'm not published yet, but I've been working on a book with my agent for a while. And I also have a "pet project" that I work on just for fun. I love just having something to write just for me. You know? Makes me happy. I'll have to keep this post in mind if I ever get published and think about not writing for fun anymore. Good luck with getting back into the swing of things and working on an awesome pet project! You rock. I love your posts. :)

lbdiamond said...

Hi Elana! Seems like it's been a long time.

Writing vs Writing for Pub is an interesting topic. There's certainly more pressure and angst in Writing for Pub.

*hugs*

M.B. West said...

What a great post, Elana. I'm sorry you feel suffocated and have read countless writers say the same thing. I think those of us striving to get there forget how hard it is once you finally do get there. Maybe you can use a pseudonym for your fun writing, like an alter-ego. :)

Christine Rains said...

I love my writing time. Though what I've been doing lately has been a lot of revising and critiquing. I don't enjoy that as much! It's necessary, though.

Have a great weekend! :)

Matthew MacNish said...

I hate my job. I almost didn't make it here today.

Carol Riggs said...

Oh, excellent decision! Take back the JOY of writing, you go, girl! I'm not to the point you are yet, but I can certainly see how looming deadlines and expectations can suck the living vitality out of a writer's writing. I guess the key is remember that ALL first drafts suck, so maybe you can even give yourself permission to be sucky on your have-to writing. Revising often turns a sucky lump of coal into a quite nice diamond!

Nicole Zoltack said...

We all need pet projects - projects just for ourselves. We can't ever lose that love of writing.

Shannon said...

Great topic, Elana. I have three categories for my writing:

1. Work (training material for the day job, weekend reviews and my freelance gig)

2. Manuscript
Falls somewhere between for me and for publication

3. Blog
This is my pet project. And I subject all of you to it. Sorry!

<3

Martha Ramirez said...

Yep--writing for publication is def not easy. Great post! Makes us aware we are not alone. Thank God!

Marsha Sigman said...

All my writing is still for me. But I'm a pretty harsh critic.

Sometimes I'm all 'get off my back, you are such a beast why can't I watch the entire last season of Vampire Diaries still recorded on the DVR instead of writing on the weekend?' And then I say 'you want to be published someday, right? So stop being all cougarish over those 30 year olds pretending to be teenagers and get your butt back on that computer.'

That's pretty normal, right?

Elle Strauss said...

I get that now that I'm about to launch my first book. I have a companion book half written, thinking it would make sense to send it out into the world next, but I'm too freaked out about it being compared to the first book, which had like 4 years and a million eyeballs go over it to get it to a publishable point.

CherylAnne Ham said...

Good for you, taking back your writing. :D

As yet unpublished, I worry a bit about this. Sometimes I'm happy, that "you don't know what you don't know". :D

Roland D. Yeomans said...

What did Yoda tell me? "Hmm. Hmm? First draft? There is no first draft. The best you must do every time. Yes. Yes."

I have to stop watching the original STAR WARS! LOL. Roland

Amanda Pinkston said...

All of my work is hidden right now...my problem is that I'm trying to produce perfect but the problem is perfect doesn't come out the first time (or ever for that matter). Perfection can be paralyzing and I'm trying to work through that!

Cortney said...

It's funny because the project I'm having the most success with and positive feedback on is a project that was just a side thought while I waited to hear back from agents on my "serious" projects! Not to say I haven't had to strip it down and rework it because I have! But I think it all boils down to your new goal--to write for yourself AND for publication! Thanks for the great post!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I think it's awesome that you're claiming your "you" writing time. Of course we have to write for publication, and there's tremendous learning that goes on through that...but still.

You're an inspiration in so many ways! :)

Canda said...

I'm definitely enjoying the sucky-life of writing before being publishable!
*sigh*

June G said...

It's posts like this that drive me back to your blog on a regular basis. I always want to know what you're up to. You're such a sincere, honest person. Even though you're published, and have a "gazillion" followers (lol) who comment like mad, you always keep it real. You're no diva. You are one of the most down-to-earth YA authors out today.

I'm not published, but I've thought about this topic. I think it's the reason I've kind of slowed down and stopped writing like a mad woman to get published. Oh, I still want to publish a novel, but I'm taking my time and trying not to be so obsessed about it. Now, if I decide to only write a paragraph or few lines in a day, there's no deadline, no pressure, no "public" waiting to tell me I suck!

I realize I have to watch what I ask for. All facets of life comes with its pros and cons. You said it well: "you can never be unpublished". I've decided to be more relaxed and enjoy the journey of the "unpublished" writer.

Thanks for this, Elana, as always. :-)

RaShelle Workman said...

Elana - You go, girl! Take it back and enjoy. ;D

Overdue said...

I find it really difficult to write anything without rewriting and editing it as I go along. I hate leaving it in a substandard state. But I do keep a diary in which I write any old rubbish off the top of my head and never change anything, so maybe that's my outlet.

Theresa Milstein said...

Since I've only written rough drafts for myself, I have nothing to compare it to.

But I do have a short story that was accepted that I've just received edit suggestions for, and the editor wants me to take the story in a new direction. This is going to be a major rewrite. Unlike when I get suggestions from critique partners and betas, this one needs to be adhered to more. Scarier.

February Grace said...

This is why publication in a traditional sense is no longer an aspiration of mine. I tend to take the Emily Dickinson method: write, put it in a trunk, then will let my progeny decide if it's any good someday to do anything with.

If I ever publish- it'll be self-publishing, I know that now.

I just can't write 'for publication' or I freeze. I just write, and that's the only way I can do it.

I feel for my friends who struggle with the 'writing what's publishable' thing. My hat is off to them- it's just beyond me to be able to do it. I admire their moxy, and yours!

~bru

Charlotte said...

Interesting post!

I would say it's been years since I properly wrote something just for me, and I'm not even published yet!

Every proper project I start, I'm figuring out what's appropriate and what's not, who's the market etc. I find I'm always censoring myself, which is probably a shame but there you go.

I don't have pet projects, just pet ideas. I love planning my new projects in my head, but if try to start writing them before I've finished my current WIP then I lose interest.

Anyway, good luck taking back your writing! Hope it works out. :)

Jenny Lundquist said...

I absolutely have a pet project. But now that I have to churn out a second book in two months (when it took me two years to write my first)I've had to leave it. Am planning on returning to my sucktastic pet project ways closer to the holidays (at least until I get my editorial letter). Long live pet/secret projects!

Nichole Giles said...

I kind of do that too. Write two things at once. That is, unless I feel pressured to write something good. Which, you know, happens more often than not. Right now the pressure comes from submitting and waiting and feeling rushed to write the next *possibly* publishable thing.

It's a vicious cycle!

But yeah. I get it.

Amber Argyle, author said...

*blubbers* I so needed to hear that I wasn't the only one. I wish you were closer. I'd so take you to lunch and we could comiserate together. BTW, is marketing killing your writing time too? I'm not getting anything done.

Melody said...

Oh, this is so encouraging, Elana! While I don't know what it's like to write after being published, I know what it's like to write FOR FUN, and then decide to focus on writing something publishable. *whimpers* Just this weekend I re-read last year's NaNo novel and remembered what it was like to write and not care about dialogue tags, or continuity problems, or cliche lines/characters. Le sigh. I'm almost FINISHED with the current MS, and then I have plans to write for fun again. (I, too, used to have a pet project. I have no idea where it went or why I drifted from it.)

Jenny S. Morris said...

I should start a stink-it-up project. But, I have a feeling I would start caring about it too much, send it to my CP, then it wouldn't be the other project anymore. Oh well, maybe I'll do short stories instead.

Leslie Rose said...

I remember that feeling from back in my acting days. I "turned pro" at 14, and after that I felt like I had to be dead on even in acting classes where it was supposed to be safe to "try things and grow." Take back the power, Sista. Write for the joy. And have I mentioned how much I love POSSESSION. You have a lifelong fan here.

andrea said...

What I am wondering is why is it the be all and end all to get published then? Do you think it is worth it? Is writing still fun?

Shari said...

I don't know what it's like to write for publication, but I do know what it's like to write for submission. And I, quite frankly, don't like it. I like to write for me. It's so much more fun!

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