Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In Which I Claim I Am Not Complaining, But Really I Am

Have you ever had an idea for a "little" book?
Not even in length, mind you, just, something fairly simple in scope. Nothing too fussy, no sprawling epic, no intense world building, just a story about interesting characters involved in some engaging experience that sounds like it would be just as much fun to write as to read about?
Yeah. That one.
How often does that "little" book turn out to be any easier to write than the multi-volume high fantasy epic we all thought we would pen when we were still in junior high?
Yeah. That's what I thought.
A "little" book is kicking my rear end right now. I thought I would be done with this by now. I planned on having this revision done by the end of '13. And that didn't happen.
I think perhaps most, if not all writers have this naive dream when struggling through that first novel that it gets easier with future projects, even though we know that can't possibly be true. It's just a merciful wish, like thinking childbirth will be easier the second, or third, or tenth time around. Ah, no. The process is the process.
With my current manuscript, I've been giving myself quite the hard time. This book is shorter, or at least supposed to be, than my previous manuscripts. It's more refined in scope, with fewer characters and locations and a much more straightforward plot than the last project I worked on. This should be simpler, I tell myself. You're making this too difficult, I tell myself. Once, I even accidentally echoed the words of a family member in my own head - why are you finding this so hard? It's just a book for kids.
Bad writer. No cookie for you.
There is no such thing as "just for kids". I've seen plenty of writers use some form of that phrase lately, in an exchange that goes something like this.
"You're a writer?"
"Oh, yes, just children's books."
It's said that way. Just children's books, as if it's nothing important.
Hey now. Kid's books may not be considered especially sophisticated. We children's writers may not as often wear the Tortured Artist badge like so many others of our kind, but children's books are very important. I spent a lot of time during the past two weeks grumbling to myself over having this unfinished revision looming over me. I kept hearing, "this should have been done by now." being muttered under my own breath every time I opened the manuscript.
But then, one evening at the end of last week, I looked up from my pages to see my nine year old son curled up on the couch with a novel, and I immediately understood the importance of taking my time with that "little" book. It may not look like much to the great Literary Community at large, but for that little boy, even though he is a very strong reader, picking up a book is a challenge. I know plenty of adults who won't read a full novel because it's too hard, or takes too long, or some other bad excuse. But then there are plenty of kids like my boy, who choose spend his time reading, instead of turning on the Wii again, or playing with his tablet, or more lego building. And if he's going to take on a challenge like that, then he deserves to be reading something worth his time. As a writer,  I owe it to any future little reader that may one day pick up the manuscript that's giving me fits right now, to have made them the best book possible.
So I'm going to take my time. There is no rush. There's no deadline. The book will be ready when it's ready.

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