Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘writing books

Writing in Spite of Difficulties

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Folks, I just wanted to check in to let you know I’m working hard again on a novel. I don’t want to talk too much about it before I get to the three-quarters mark, but I can at least tell you I am working on it.

This is a big deal to me, because after my last novel failed to make a dent in the marketplace, I had to think seriously about what I’d do next. I wasn’t about to stop writing, but…did I want to be like the musical composer Charles Ives, where his work wasn’t truly played until after his death? Did I want to be like composer Nadia Boulanger, whose most important work wasn’t her own compositions (fine as they were) but championing her sister Lily’s, not to mention working with American composers Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson (among others)? Or could I keep going in the uncertain marketplace, and have faith, and continue on the path I’d already set for myself?

It took me over two years to figure this out, but I am continuing on my original path.

The important thing to remember here is, you have to write for yourself as much as anyone else. Yes, you hope your work will find its audience (how not?), but you have to write for yourself.

Nadia Boulanger did that, even though later she put her work aside. So did Charles Ives, who continued to write interesting music though his day job was in something else. (Insurance, I think.)

I hope I’ve learned that lesson now, and that I won’t have to learn it again.

Anyway, I’m back to working on my writing. And I do hope to have a novel done by the end of the year, along with a few short stories and maybe even finish that novella in my late husband Michael’s Atlantean Union universe…stay tuned.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 9, 2020 at 3:48 pm

Revision — or, How do you find your Story?

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Folks, as I wound up my writing this evening/morning, I had a thought.

Yes, thoughts can be dangerous. But this one probably isn’t. In fact, this particular thought might actually be useful to those working on revising a story, and wondering just how long it’s going to take to fix it. Much less what sort of story you’re going to end up with once you’re done…and whether or not it has anything to do with the story you started with.

The revision process is daunting, you see. It’s also frustrating, nerve-wracking, confusing, sometimes painful, and downright difficult.

Mind, I’m not the only writer to say this. (Far, far from it.) Anne Lamott said this in her book BIRD BY BIRD; she even said that her own first drafts are so awful, she barely can stand looking at them. (My best paraphrase, mind, as I don’t have the book in front of me.)

But these painful first drafts are needed, you see. Only after you get down everything you visualize in your head can you work with the raw materials of your story…and figure out what, exactly, your story is.

Now, some writers work much faster than others, and everyone’s process is a little different. So I can’t give you a timetable as to how long it’s going to take to refine your story from the raw material of your first draft.

All I can do is give you a little encouragement, if you’re dealing with a revision right now. And remind you of three simple things:

  1. Every writer goes through this; you’re not alone.
  2. You do have a story there, no matter how obscured it seems right now.
  3. The end product is worth your time and investment, even though you can’t see that right now.

So, if you’re stuck in the throes of “revision Hell,” as I am right now with regards to CHANGING FACES, try to remember these three things. And ask yourself, “What is the story, and how do I advance it from here?”

That should help you get through the rough spots a little better.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 29, 2016 at 7:56 am

Why Writing a Book Is Like Preparing for a Marathon

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Why is writing a book so much like preparing for a marathon?

Writing a book takes time. Effort. Forethought, planning, a certain drive and sticktuitiveness…it’s a test that will push you to your limit. It shows you, as a writer, what you are made of — because you have to believe that your persistence, your effort, and your skill will pay off.

Runners do this, too, when they prepare to run marathons. They must get into condition, learn to eat efficiently, and prepare their bodies for a maximum effort. And they must believe that all of the training, all of their skill, will pay dividends when they finally run their races.

Runners are strong. They have to be. And they must believe in themselves, even if no one else does, or they can’t run their best races.

You have to be strong to be a writer, too. And you have to have faith in yourself that what you’re doing is the right thing, all because you have a creative vision that will not be denied.

Perhaps thinking about writing in the terms of preparing for a marathon will help you, especially if you are stalled or frustrated with your work-in-progress. While a completed book is not like running an actual marathon, writing that book is very much like preparing to run a marathon.

I know the metaphor only goes so far. But it’s still an interesting way to think about writing — as a marathon, not a sprint.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 15, 2015 at 8:17 am