I’m often asked at conferences and other speaking engagements: “How do you keep on writing when it is such a difficult business?”
I usually tell the story about the Magic Pencil. It’s about how when I was young I’d look at a pencil and think it was magical. I imagined all the words the pencil could write, all the stories it could create. Then I thought of all the magic pencils out in the world and all the books they had written. I wanted a magic pencil of my own so I could create that magic. Of course, I realized the magic wasn’t in the pencil, but I never imagined I could possess that magic. I had always thought it belonged to others. Until one day I realized that magic was inside me.
In order to keep on writing when it’s such a difficult business, you have to hold onto the magic you feel when writing. It will lead to inspiration and a desire to continue creating stories.
But as we all know, there’s more to it than magic. You also need to:
- Remember Why You Are Writing—You write because you love to write, because you have something meaningful to say. Write the story you want to tell and the story you would want to read, the story that makes you feel excited. It takes a long time to write (and research) a novel and you need that excitement to sustain you. When writing PREDATOR, I had to research bog bodies (how they were preserved and how the people died—most were murdered) and the Benandanti mythology (an actual folkloric belief that certain families of Italy and Livonia were werewolves who fought against evil). Then I had to figure out how to give the Benandanti mythology a new twist and combined it with a modern scientific approach to mutation and the science of transgenics. Once I figured that out, I created a story that was fast-paced with lots of action, romance, and suspense, so that I could make the book a fun read, not only for myself but for my readers.
- Believe in Yourself—Believe that you can write what you set out to write and that you are good enough. Have faith that you can do it, even during those times when it seems like your goals are out of reach. They are not as far away as you think.
- Remember that Publishing is a Business—Try not to take rejection too personally. There are dozens of reasons why your book may be rejected. Don’t automatically assume it’s because you’re a horrible writer.
- Be Persistent— Push through the tough times. Your first novel may not get published; the second or third may not either. Look at it as a learning experience, time you have put into mastering your craft. Then buckle up for another great ride and write the next book.
As Andre Dubus said in the following quote, which I have taped to my computer monitor:
“Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares on way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.”
Janice Gable Bashman is the Bram Stoker nominated author of Predator (Month9Books 2014) and Wanted Undead or Alive, with New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry (Citadel Press 2010). She is publisher of The Big Thrill (International Thriller Writers’ magazine). Her short fiction has been published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, and the International Thriller Writers, where she serves on the board of directors as Vice President, Technology.