Friday, May 21, 2010

Novel Writing is like having a Drug Addiction

I'm currently on vacation at Lake Como, Italy. It is idyllic! I will blog all about my adventure next week, along with posting a couple of pictures. Although I'm taking a break with my dh and relaxing, I'm also still writing. My eyes pop open between 0600-0700 and my brain insists my body get out of bed to write while my dh is still sleeping. Once my dh rises, he hits the gym, which gives me an extra hour to plug away on my laptop. After we've dressed and I've gotten my mandatory jolt of java, I'm in vacay mode for the rest of the day.

In James Frey's book, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, he says what counts most about becoming a published novelist isn't talent. "We are all something else besides novelists, but if you are not a novelist in your heart, at your core, you are a dilettante and should not bother trying to be a novelist." Frey goes on to explain talent is not in short supply. You will find it in critique groups, at writer's conferences, and in workshops. Many individuals have a strong voice, write in a fresh way, create dynamic characters, and churn out witty dialogue.

"But most of these folks with so much raw talent will not make it as novelists. Why? Because they lack what's truly necessary: self-discipline, dogged determination, and stick-to-itiveness....The writing of a novel takes a great deal of time and the expenditure of a great deal of emotional and mental energy. Time normally spent with friends and loved ones will have to be sacrificed. Few novelists play golf, go bowling, or watch much television. Novel writing is like heroin addiction; it takes all you've got."

Frey is candid and doesn't hold back in his book. Before I started writing seriously, I watched on average 15 -20 hours of television per week and saw at least 4 movies per month. Now, I squeeze in 5 hours of TV with my dh per week after my brain is kaput and I'm lucky if I can get to the movie theater once a month. Being a serious writer doesn't stop when you're not in front of the keyboard. Dialogue comes to me in the morning just after dawn. While in the car driving to work or on the plane going on vacation, I'm plotting, creating pickles for my characters, hatching escape plans, pushing myself to find a way to up the ante.

Novel writing does require all you have, but it's important to find time to recharge. Surrender to your muse, but don't let the process drain you dry. Although novel writing is my passion, it is not my life. I strive to strike a healthy balance, where I don't lose sight of what's most important: good health, great food, steadfast friendship and the love of family.


  1. Great blog, Isis! I nodded my head all through it. One thing I noticed is my writing gets me up earlier and earlier all the time, and I HATE mornings, but here I am, almost every morning plinking away because one character or another got in my head and pushed me out of bed. :)

  2. Isis,
    Lovely job on this blog. I totally agree that you have to cut out some things in order to write, and maybe that means I'm not as dedicated as I should be. Not sure.

    I read another blog recently that talked about obsession and passion in your writing. The great writers liked Hemmingway and others of his ilk were obsessed and then there are others who write with passion. There is a distinction because obsessions take over your life and to have passion doesn't need to. I hope this makes sense. It just seemed like your blog paralled the other one. Smile.

    Enjoy your time in Italy.

  3. Isis, before I became what I'd now call a serious writer, I watched 15-25hrs of TV a week. I'd watch one channel, and tape 2 other shows (before DVR) to watch later. Now, I'm down to about 5-6hrs of TV I don't want to miss each week, and the moment the season finale airs, I'm a little sad, but mostly relieved to not have to sit and watch it the next week. Freedom! :)

    My latest book is set in Lake Como, Italy, from when my own sis and bro left me behind only 3 hrs after being in the country back in '97. They drove off as I was filming swans by the lake and didn't realize until over 10 min later that I wasn't in the car with them. Now I have a book out of it, which I will of course dedicate to them. :)

    Enjoy your vacation! I still have memories of how beautiful it is there.

  4. I went to bed at 3:00 am and began to rethink my current WIP and how it would flow better. I've been pushing adding over a hundred words per day but I worried it was going nowhere spinning in circles.

  5. Isis, all you said is so true. Before SW (serious writing) I watched soap operas and every night of the week had a show I 'couldn't' miss. Now...not so much. No daytime tv at all and I DVR my fave shows and watch them 2 or 3 at a time over the weekend until I'm caught up for the week. I love that season finales are on, almost time for no tv at all!!!