Writing A Lot, Writing A Little, And The Power Of Failure

The other day, I talked a bit on Twitter about, duh, writing.

In part because I write a lot (and as a result, produce a lot of books) and a lot of people always want to ask how I do that, as if there’s some great secret. And no great secret or cheat code exists (except this: UP UP DOWN DOWN LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT B A SELECT START). But that doesn’t mean there’s not some unpacking to do around the process of writing in terms of the time it takes and how much you can or must fail.

And so: a Storify of them tweetsies.

Featuring bonus tweets by Joe Hill, Delilah S. Dawson, and more.

40 responses to “Writing A Lot, Writing A Little, And The Power Of Failure”

  1. After some promising back and forth, my first novel was rejected today from a publisher. While I was anxiously checking my email every five minutes–for about two months–I wrote a few short stories that were also rejected. Boo. Tough few months. It’s inspiring to hear successful writers have been kicked in the literary nuts from time to time too. I’m not giving up. Like the noted poet 50 Cent says “Publish a book or die tryin”….or something like that. Anyhow, The journey continues…

    • That’s exciting though! Congrats on sending in a completed novel and getting your first novel publisher rejection! That seems like a milestone type thing. (I’m being supportive, not sarcastic, in case that’s not obvious.)

    • Yes!!! Keep going! Keep trying!! You can’t give up on it!! I think I remember reading that JK Rowling was rejected a LOT but kept on trying. She said it was exciting, even, because it meant that *this* was really happening! She’d started the process! She was that much closer to getting published. Just remember that! You’re that much closer! Keep going!!

      “Publish a book or die trying” haha! I like that. I think I need to hang that motto on my wall next to my computer!

    • I’m straight up serious: I can’t wait to say the words “my first novel was rejected today from a publisher” because it means I’ve finally finished writing something. Just having written a novel is huge, I’m envious of where you are right now and regardless of what happens to your novel and your short stories, you are on your way. You only fail when you stop, keep going!! Your post has motivated me to keep going 🙂

  2. ‘The act of writing day in and day out lets me also course correct on a story while I’m in it — which means fewer apocalyptic edits later.’
    ‘Going in, you don’t know your process, you don’t know your voice, you don’t know jack shit from jellybeans. Write your way through it.’
    Truer words have never been written, Chuck. For me, who believes in writing lots, these words are Gospel.

  3. I always find that i like to read what ive written the day before and edit it before i start on the days new work. This seems to help me “course correct” as its almost like doing a running edit.

  4. Just have to say as a pop culture nerd there is no “select” in the Konami code you entered. its just up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start.

    • From Urban Dictionary:

      “…A common alteration on this code is:
      Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right, B, A, SELECT, Start.

      Many people mentally add in a ‘select’ in there for one reason only–on the menu screen, pressing select changed the cursor to ‘2 players’ instead of ‘1 player’. Contra was always more fun to play with a friend.”

      • Yes Contra is a two person game but you better not take my spray bullet gun though. That will make me take my Nintendo and go home. You can have the heat seeking gun. I am not irrational.

  5. Oh my god I so needed this today! Thank you times a million, Chuck!

    In a Daydream Session I was indulging in the other day, I was trying to work out roughly how old I’d probably be when I wrote a novel that was good enough to elevate me to ‘proper author’ status (the kind of author that could go to a conference like you just went to, Chuck, and not have everyone constantly asking me where the toilets are ‘cos they think I’m staff, for examps.)

    Taking into consideration the oft-quoted mantra that “no-one gets their first novel published, because all first novels suck,” and give that MY current first novel that I’ll complete (because I WILL) is planned as part of a series, I was left with the distinct feeling that my hopes of this dream becoming reality BEFORE I’m the same age as E.L. James are… well, I’ve changed my mind about putting money on it, shall we say. Heck, I probably won’t even be able to hang out with fellow author-types, because everyone will be saying “Oh bless, look – one of the writers brought their mum with them! Well, she must get lonely sometimes, I suppose…”

    …and that made me a little bit sad for a while. Doomed to be excluded from the Cool Writers’ Club because I’ll be too old and senile by the time I qualify for entry. But then I read this post, and the sadness went away.

    I get two hours a day for writing, and I’m not a fast writer. A four-figure word-count for me in that time is a rarity that would have David Attenborough waxing lyrical. But I figure as long as I keep showing up and tapping out my pitiful wordcount, day after day, little by little, I’ll STILL get there in the end. It’ll take me way longer than those other writers who can bang out 2,000 words before breakfast, but all I have to do is not die of anything for a good few years yet and I’m set.

    Thanks for giving me hope!

  6. “Don’t let anybody else tell you how you write. And don’t let your own brain sabotage you. Undercut the pressure. Care less.”

    This is the one I’m going to tell my writing workshop on Saturday ^^

  7. Ironic that my lovely writing teacher for Novel in a Year (really more of a support group and craft, critique group that we all paid to join) sat down with me at my 100-page one-on-one and one of the first things she said was “Look, no one knows how to write a novel.” I just loved her for that. Then she asked some intelligent questions, commented generously on what was working for her and what wasn’t. I keep trying to rush this thing since I only dabbled for the last 30 years. I want to be great NOW. So, maybe I’ll be really good in 10 years. As always, Chuck, thanks for slapping me into reality and making me laugh!

  8. I love the 2,000 word a day “rule” this means that at 730,000 per year each and every writer worth their salt can write War and Peace (587,000) or the Entrire Harry Potter 7 book series, in a single year (delete as appropriate).

    What were theres authors doing when its CLEARLY possible in 1 year??

    Its not possible, or if it is, the editing (as chuck says) will be horrific. Each to their own. I dont write much but what i do write needs little cutting as i work at it to get it right. My first edit added 5,000 words because it was too light. Pluck away cos musics is done 1 note at a time too = )

  9. What I started to do to break myself of the habit of caring: writing in a genre I don’t give a shit about (at least, not at the time). I think sometimes we have to not take ourselves so seriously…”care less,” indeed.

  10. I have a few books that need to be rewritten, three that need to be finished, one a thorough polishing, two ready to go right now, and one that needs to be burned in the fire place so I can stay warm this winter.

  11. I’m going to post this over my desk: Fail fast. Fail with glee. Fail better. Fail upwards. Build a ladder out of trying things and getting shit wrong.

    Totally true shit…and it’s counter-intuitive for a not-so-closet perfectionist like me.

  12. Thank you…I already knew all this, but it’s always helpful to hear it over and over and over again so that one day I will really believe it and become it and get my Effin’ Book done.

  13. Great advice that I have to keep beating into my own head day after day . . . .I tried the whole “infinite bunch of monkeys locked in a room with an old Remington typewriter” and that didn’t work and they made a hell of a mess so. . .

  14. Much love for this, in all the ways. Like many others, I needed to see that other people had to suck before they succeeded too.

    Oh, yeah…I too have five unpublished manuscripts in my ‘please, all powers in heaven, don’t let my lawyer publish this when I get old’ drawer.

  15. I admit it. I don’t know jack shit from jellybeans. No, you don’t want to know about my Easter basket.

  16. One of the best things about Wattpad (if u know me u r groaning right now….not shit about Wattpad again!) is it pushes me to right and nobody expects perfect. My fans expect me to publish every week and that is a bigger drive than any Android productivity app ever was. The worst thing is telling them over and over that no I am not writing a sequel to my first book, I am dying to work on something new! LOLz

  17. Brilliant! It always amazes me how much you’re able to talk about the process of writing, given you’ve been blogging about it for years and have several books on the matter. It is initially through your blog that I realized that I could make my dreams happen, in one form or another. I might not be making a million dollars, but at least I get to do something I love doing.

    Some people make a fortune off of books. Some people make a little money off of books. Some people make no money off of books. Some people don’t bother.

  18. “If you’re a person to writes one book every three years, hey, fuck yeah. High-five yourself because most people write one book every NEVER.”

    Haha, brilliant! These tweets are great, Chuck. Your thoughts are priceless.
    Thanks for sharing.

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