Blast from the Past: Writing takes work. That should inspire you!

Happy 2023! I want to start the year off with some fun blog posts, so of course the year has started off having some fun with me. Meaning that life has already overtaken my plans. It’s all good. I’m just unexpectedly busy with things that have pushed blog-writing aside. So for now, I’m going to replay some posts from past years, with a focus on writing. Here’s a post from March 2016. Enjoy!


Writing a novel is a process. According to my college writing teacher, Ron Hansen, it’s “a ramshackle process.”


That means it takes brainstorming, spitballing, dreaming up characters, dreaming up plots, throwing your characters into a tornado (emotional or actual), pounding out their story, revising that story, cutting some of those characters and plot strands, killing thousands of needless words, and rewriting until your fingers and brain ache.

It’s work, and I never want to hide that. Because it can be glorious work. It’s the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.

But a friend recently asked whether hearing that the process can be tough, and that first drafts are usually bad, discourages people from getting serious about writing.

I damn well hope not.

I’m telling you this to let you know that if you’re struggling with any of these aspects of the writing process, you’re normal. And you’re doing it right. Putting in the work is the way great books get written.

If you’re a new or aspiring writer, this should inspire you.


If your first draft seems awful: That’s the way writing works.

If your rough draft’s dialogue sounds dull or stilted: Yeah, almost everybody’s does.

If the early version of your plot has a hole big enough to wreck a Mack truck: Welcome to the club.

If you have to stick your first novel in a file cabinet because it doesn’t hold together: Been there. Learned a hell of a lot. Started the next novel at a much higher level because of it.

I tell people that writing is work because it is. And because I wish that when I got up the nerve to write CHAPTER 1, somebody had told me I was going to stumble, and run into walls, and want to beat my head against the desk… and that this would be okay. That everybody did these things. And that wonderful books were born of this process.

I was desperate to write. I was never not going to write. From the time I was a kid, the desire to write was a fire in my bones. Hearing that learning to write well takes real time and effort would have eased my doubts and fears. It would have bolstered me for the journey.

So dig in. When you see your debut novel on bookshelves, the work will all be worth it.

8 responses to “Blast from the Past: Writing takes work. That should inspire you!

  1. Great post. Still rings true!

  2. Takes me back… :^) China Lake!

  3. Howdy. I enjoyed your post. I don’t write books. But for about eight years I’ve been turning out essays and humor pieces regularly for my blog. I guess you’d say that I’m a columnist. Writing is fun, rewarding and a fine creative outlet. It’s also anything but easy, as you know. But it’s worth the effort. Take care. Neil S.

  4. Pingback: Reading list: January 25th –

  5. Yes – things have been crazy busy since January 2, so I’m only now discovering your blog. Although he didn’t create the expression, one of my favorite John Lennon lyrics is “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So true!

    I recently finished “Into the Black Nowhere” and just started “The Dark Corners of the Night” – any news about where things stand with turning your stories into a movie or series? You have another UNSUB book in the works?

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