What it takes to write a story/ Why you shouldn't be afraid to pay a little for what someone writes!
So, last week, a friend of mine, Katie, and I decided that we would enter a weekly contest that is put on by Reedsy. Now, this is the kind of contest that gets about 500+ entries, so while winning would be nice, it wasn't the goal. It was to flex the old writing muscles. Now the rules were pretty straightforward: 1000-3000 word story based on a selection of 5 prompts.
I'm a bit of a procrastinator, so I didn't settle on a prompt until Monday (the contest started on Friday) and didn't really start writing until about mid-afternoon. Let's call it around 4pm. I probably banged the story out in about 4-5 hours. First draft word count: 1827. (That's about 6 pages double spaced.)
Did it end there? Hell, no!
I sent it out to my writing circle: Colin, Ty, and Kerry. Wanted to see what they thought because I could be seeing my story with beer goggles. Plus, I wanted to get suggestions of what I could do to improve the story. This happened on Tuesday morning. Afternoon for Colin and Kerry because they exist in the future. Or the other side of the world.
Now was the time to metamorphosize the first draft into the second. This is something that I don't really think non-writers can understand. Your first draft doesn't come out perfect. It always needs tweaking. And you can't always see it, thus other people reading it.
So, it was on Tuesday night I started my first read through of my first draft. I read the comments first. They were mostly favorable. Yay! It wasn't a big, steaming pile of shit. That meant less rewriting on my part to polish the story. Now, understand that while this is all happening, life is going on. I'm working. Socializing. You know, life.
Rewriting takes about another two hours. During this time, I'm shit talking with Katie about how great my story is. She's giving it right back to me. And I'm honestly jazzed about how the story is taking shape. In my read through, I've noticed that I've mixed some tenses, which means a more detailed read through. Gotta have those tenses in line! A few grammar errors. Gotta fix those! Since this a line by line edit, it takes a little bit. We'll call it an hour, though, honestly, it was probably more like a half an hour.
In the end, I'm up to about 7 and a half hours. We'll round it up to an even 8. Surely I'm done, right? Nope. But this is only a 2000 word story!
I send it back out for another couple of critiques. This time I appeal to a writers' Facebook group where I'm a member. James answers my post. Then I ask Trish for my final set of eyes. This is Wednesday night, because I had to work in the morning. I'll look at their comments, make any changes I think are necessary, and make a final read through to make sure that the writing really sings.
Now comes the hardest part: Sending it out to the court of public opinion.
Now, if you've never sent anything you've created out into the world, you won't get the courage it takes to hit send on an email. You are opening yourself up to not only criticism but rejection. This is the killer for most writers. Most of us are plagued with anxiety. Yet we write. And some of us, those of us that are gluttons for punishment, submit stories to be judged and found wanting. Now, at this point in my life, I'm not plagued by so many insecurities. I've found my stride as a writer and I know I'm good but I do remember the days when I wasn't so confident. They sucked.
So, let's add everything up. I've spent 11 hours on a story that's final word count is 1962. Not even 2000 words! Now, most of the things I write are in the 7500-12000 range. And they don't come out nearly as clean as this one did. I'm currently working on rewriting one such story and it is a big enterprise. I've cut about 2000 words, the size of the story I just wrote, and have added another 3000. I'm completely changing the tone of the story. Was this a bad story? No, it actually got some really good feedback from editors I've submitted it to. But it wasn't a diamond. So, I'm giving it that polish that'll make it shine.
What does this mean for you, the reader/friend/family member of said writer? Well, writers need your support! Should you buy things they publish? Certainly, that is the easiest way to show your support. Take it from a starving artist, we appreciate sales. Is that the only way? Certainly not. In this day and age, exposure goes a long way. When a writer post comes to your feed, showing his newest project, don't immediately scroll by. A like or comment can make it more visible to the different algorithms. A share can be monumental. A review on Amazon can catapult a book into the public eye. All of these things take seconds to do but can have a lasting impact on a writer.
Next time you see a writer asking $1.99 for a book they sweat blood for, don't sneer and think they should be giving it away for free since they aren't known. Be kind and support your writer friend.