love the work, revise the work, love the work

January 16, 2012

Advice to writers:  You have to love what you’re writing.  I have a very practical reason for this piece of advice that doesn’t have anything to do with the market or how readers can tell if you’re phoning it in if your heart isn’t in it.  You have to love what you’re writing because you’re going to be living with this thing for a very long time.  You have to love what you write because when you’re reading it for the eighth time, after revising it twice, you have to still love it enough to care that it’s the best you can possibly make it.  When you’ve changed one sentence ten times and it still doesn’t look right, you have to love the work enough that you’ll change it an eleventh time.  And then read the whole book over again to make sure you didn’t break something.  When you want to stab your eyes out because you’ve read this thing so many times and you can’t tell anymore if it’s good or crap or a string of incomprehensible babbling, you have to hang on to the thing that you love about it, and have faith that it’s going to turn out okay, and keep reading it yet again, paying attention to all the little ways you can make the work better.

If you don’t love and believe in what you’re writing, you’re not going to be able to do this.

(I’m almost done with the latest round of revisions on Kitty 11.  I’ve read it through twice this round.)


9 Responses to “love the work, revise the work, love the work”

  1. My last book I read 5 times AFTER the publisher bought it and my editor had it. And yep, still loved it.

  2. Mel Says:

    Yay Kitty! And I would guess, then, that this is why I like your books so much – they feel as though you like them, too.

  3. Amen! My last book I read and re-read too many times to count. Then I did one more read through on the eve of publication and was still happily surprised by how fun the story was.

    On my last first draft, however, I was trying to write in an entirely new genre just as an experiment, and HATED it. Hated the characters, hated the tension, hated the plot. So I just switched gears and morphed everything closer to my preferred urban fantasy, and that made all the difference.

    If you can’t stand what you’re working on, you’ll avoid sitting down to work on it and you’ll begrudge every minute you invest in writing and revising. And you know that’s going to show up in the final book. If the writer hates it, why should the reader love it?

  4. You are SO right about this. Then there is the other side of it: I care so much that what I write is as good as it can be that I have trouble getting myself to STOP revising and actually submit.
    I have two non-fiction books in print (so I can do it), but still trying to break into the fiction market.
    Kitty is one of my favourites, and one of the reasons I’m trying my hand at urban fantasy – and loving it!

  5. Rebecca Says:

    Actually, this can be said about any profession, in my experience. You have to love it because any job well done needs a lot of repeating steps, rehearsing, re-doing etc. If you love it, it’s fun or at its worst, something you can live with. If it’s “just that job you have because you nee money”, it’s torture.

    I’m looking forward to the new Kitty novel! ^_^

  6. Thank you for posting this. I’m in the middle of revising a book right now, so it’s encouraging to know that everything I’m feeling is normal (or at least, not unique to me).

    This bit, especially, helped me:

    “When you’ve changed one sentence ten times and it still doesn’t look right, you have to love the work enough that you’ll change it an eleventh time.”

    Thanks to you, I’ve now gone back and changed some things for the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth times. And I’m happier with them now.

    So thank you again.

  7. […] silly thing.  Which is why Carrie Vaughn’s post this week was just the pep talk I needed.  You should go read it.  Just don’t forget to come […]

  8. Woad Hayes Says:

    I am in the process of writing a book. It’s the first story I’ve ever taken past ten pages. I have no idea if I will ever publish (or even how, for that matter). I have no degrees in English, And while both my writing and English comprehension skills scored consistently high on tests throughout school, I can’t really say I’m educated. All the same, I love writing my story, and I read through it over and over again, in piecemeal, making it as smooth and correct as I can. It’s a beautiful thing to me.

  9. […] author Carrie Vaughn has some advice to writers that struck me as very […]

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