Too good to be true?

By PD Martin

Before I get into today’s post, I wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to all our North American readers. I know you may be expecting a Thanksgiving-themed post but guess who got Thanksgiving…the Aussie! So I’ve gone with a regular post 🙂 Now, on to ‘Too good to be true’…

While I’ve never been one of those writers who paces for hours to come up with one sentence or spends six months planning out every detail of a book before I start writing, I’ve still always thought of writing as hard work. It is hard work.  

Sure, there’s the fun stuff…writing in your pyjamas, the long commute from bedroom to study, tax-deductible trips to various destinations for research and/or promotion (although you have to be able to afford the flights in the first place), not to mention sitting in a café and writing. And sometimes cake does need to be involved! I don’t think anyone can argue that the above perks of the job are cool…way cool.  But it’s still bum on chair, thinking, creating and writing. And while it’s tempting to get up and procrastinate every time the flow stops, it’s not something I do.

In a post some time ago, I mentioned that I was working on a new book that’s not crime fiction. It’s not even a thriller or remotely related to my past work. I’m still getting my head around what I’d call it, but I think ‘mainstream fiction/drama’ is pretty accurate. The book is about relationships and how people deal with different traumas. I’m also entering another new world, using multiple viewpoints. And some of my subject matter is tense and issues-based…controversial, I guess.

I started writing this book at the beginning of the year, and then it was on hold for months as I took corporate gigs to pay the bills. I started on the project again in October and soon found myself zooming through it. My writing week is often very fragmented as I fit it in around being a full-time mother (to a pre-schooler) and freelance writing gigs. But I’d find I’d have an hour to write…and write 1,000 words. And every Saturday I have four hours to write while my daughter is in classes. The last two Saturdays, I’ve written 5,000 words during each of those four-hour blocks. Two productive sessions, to say the least. 

So, a couple of weeks ago I found myself asking the inevitable question. Is this too good to be true? Can writing really be this ‘easy’? Am I writing dribble that I won’t be able to edit into shape? I’m a write first, edit later kind of girl, so that’s fine. But will my bare bones be barer than usual? Or is it because the subject matter is close to my heart? One of the characters is experiencing something that I went through about eight years ago and I’m finding it easy to tap into that character and the others too for that matter.

I know Gar wrote a post two weeks ago with pretty much the polar opposite sentiment of this one, and I think that highlights the different working processes of writers. But then I’m still left with the question: Too good to be true?

This feeling is compounded by the fact that I came to this project after six months off my own writing altogether, then writing a thriller that I found incredibly hard-going. The writing didn’t seem to come naturally to me and I wasn’t sure if it was the idea/characters or the fact I’d had six months off fiction writing. This new project certainly provides a stark contrast to writing the thriller.

 So now I’m torn between two polar opposites.

  1. I’m writing what I’m “meant” to write. (Although this sounds a little cliché or dramatic…or something.) The flow and ‘ease’ is just an indication of that.
  2. It’s too good to be true.

Obviously the proof will be in the pudding. I’m now 70,000 words into the first draft, so the end is nigh and soon the major, major editing will start. Then I’ll have a better idea of how bare the bare bones are.

In the meantime, I wanted to throw this out to the Rati. Does good writing HAVE to be a hard slog? And if it flows incredibly easy, is that too good to be true?  

9 thoughts on “Too good to be true?

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Phillipa

    Last year I think I had the Thanksgiving post, so the baton has passed from the Brit to the Aussie. Still, at least that means our American Rati friends don't have to work on a public holiday!

    Writing is just unpredictable. Some of the best bits of my work I've struggled over, and others have come pouring out more or less in a single stream of consciousness. The trick is that the reader can't see the join. So, ride the wave while you're on top, revel in it, enjoy it. Sooner or later will come the dunking – as we know it must – but don't look for trouble before it happens 🙂

  2. Lisa Alber

    Seems like a sign that you're writing what you need to be writing at the moment. Revision may be tough, but, man, getting that first draft down easily? Priceless! What fun! I bet your first draft isn't as bare bones as you think either.

  3. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    What do I know. I don't know nothin'. I think if it flows easy it's a damn good sign. The book I'm writing now has been a tough, tough slog. I did 3,200 words the other day and it took ten hours to get there, and I was crazy happy to have accomplished so much. I usually write 2,000 or so words in a six or eight hour stretch. I keep thinking of the book I want to write NEXT – that's the one that feels like it will flow easily.
    I think it's awesome that you're writing in a different genre – fiction/drama in particular – leaning on your own personal experiences. I think you'll come out with something great.

  4. David Corbett

    My take? Stop worrying. Sometimes the Muse whispers, sometimes she yells, sometimes she clams up. You'll know in the rewrite phase if you tapped deeply enough into the material, but my guess is that won't be the problem.

    It's Thanksgiving. Be grateful it's going so well. because you know how hard it can be at other times, so it will balance out sooner or later.

    Thanks for the holiday read, my dear.

  5. Pari Noskin

    I've struggled with this too because my personal myth falls into the work must be a struggle mode. But my life experience bespeaks a very different experience — both in my job and in my writing . . . when I'm enjoying it, I'm doing really well. And, frankly, I enjoy writing far more without the worries about quality in the initial draft.

    Is the writing good? I don't know yet since I haven't edited anything I've written for the last year and a half, but I suspect there will be gems in there because so much of it ISN'T overthought. I'll let you know in a couple of weeks when I begin tackling some of that work . . .

  6. Reine

    Hi Phillipa,

    I am thrilled when I get a bunch of words together that are joined in some magic place so that they actually are all moving in the same direction. How anyone is able to facilitate their meeting at points future so that they tell a good story . . . I don't know that yet. I suspect that you do, though. So I would celebrate all those words!

    I am thankful for this community of writers and readers.

    Hi everyone.

  7. PD Martin

    Hi Zoe. Weird that you got Thanksgiving last time! Yes, writing is unpredictable…we'll see what comes with the edit. Hopefully the dunking won't be too bad!

    Hi Lisa. I hope you're right! Yes, it's a blessing the writing is flowing, particularly when my writing week is so fragmented and with only about 5-7 hours a week in total.

    Hi Stephen. So you're still thinking about the next book!? Hang in there with this one and then you'll be primed to launch into the next one 🙂


  8. PD Martin

    Hi David. Yes, I hope I'll be impressed on the first pass of my editing process. And I am thankful it's coming so easily!

    Hi Pari. Sounds like we're in the same boat. I'll be starting my edit in about three weeks' time too. We can compare notes 🙂

    Hi Reine. Thanks…I will definitely be celebrating when the first draft is done!


  9. Moncler Homme

    struggle mode. But my life experience bespeaks a very different experience — both in my job and in my writing . . . when I'm enjoying it, I'm doing really well. And, frankly, I enjoy writing far more without the worries about quality in the initial draft.

    Hi David. Yes, I hope I'll be impressed on the first pass of my editing process. And I am thankful it's coming so easily!

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