4. The Writing Life
What other satisfactions are there? For me, where I am in my writing career, there are two sure and solid satisfactions.
One is the response of ordinary readers. Not reviewers, but fans who send emails or who come up to me after talks and public appearances. When someone says, ‘Couldn’t put that book down!’ or ‘Are you going to write a sequel?’ I know I’ve touched a chord in someone’s imagination. It’s such a good feeling! And when younger readers say it—since half of my novels are YA or children’s—I know there’s no intention to flatter. Kids don’t bullshit!
The other satisfaction is in the writing itself, especially the stage of planning and the stage of the ‘downhill glide’. Planning is sheer, freewheeling, solo creativity. I’ve been going on about constraints—what readers expect and publishers expect—and yes, a writer needs to be aware of the constraints and take them on board sooner rather than later. But still, we have so much freedom compared to creators in any other medium.
Movies and TV shows earn big money, but they also cost big money to produce. Scriptwriters and directors are never allowed the freedom we take for granted. It’s because the production costs for a book are a fraction of the costs for a movie or TV show that publishers can take risks—and, in spite of all the constraints, they do. It’s no wonder that the most original new ideas in fantasy and SF appear in books before making their way through to other media.
The ‘downhill glide’ is when I’ve done all the hard work, set everything up right, and the story takes over and writes itself. It happens when I’m coming towards the climax and it’s like being carried along on a toboggan. If I’d ever learned to surf, I’d probably compare it to riding a wave. Exhilarating! A natural high! (The only problem is, I can hardly get to sleep nights …)
So here I am, the happy writer … the mostly happy writer. I aim to make the best of the highs and avoid stressing over the lows. I’ve never worked so hard in my life, but since I’m doing what I always dreamed of doing, maybe I shouldn’t call it work.
I guess this is the end of the trip. Thanks for staying with me, and I hope some of what I’ve said will be helpful.
Here’s wishing you happy writing and good fortune! May your dream come true too!
All the best!