Today, we have debut author Jelsa Mepsey here to talk about the writing process. Jelsa is the author of Second Chance, a YA contemporary romance novel, to be published by Winslet Press in July 2014. Welcome, Jelsa!
Hello, readers of I’d So Rather Be Reading! Thank you, Kelli, for allowing me to share your audience for a day.
I’m a young adult novelist who will have her first book published by this time next month. A lot of people think writing is an easy job, that writers wake up whenever they want to in the morning (or afternoon), stay in their pajamas all day, and stare at a computer screen and play instead of getting up to do actual work. While some writers do some or all of these things, what most people don’t talk about is the time and effort that is spent putting together an entire novel, which is what I want to spend some time discussing now.
1 – Writing takes a lot of time
Whether the novelist finishes writing in 10 days (I’ve done this before) or over a span of 3 months, no matter how it’s sliced or how the time is added up, it accumulates to many hours spent agonizing over a plot line, over a decision a character makes, rewriting important scenes, or even staring at the wall while trying to name different aspects of the novel such as a minor character or a school. The little things add up, and if the writer has a lot of other life commitments, finding time to write can be a legitimate issue.
2 – Writing takes dedication
Just like many other professions have projects that take a large chunk of time to complete, writing is the same way. The problem is, the amount of time that will be spent on a project can never be predicted. There’s no such thing as saying “I’ll finish this in 3 months” and guaranteeing it will happen, even if you’re working as hard as you can on it. Some projects just need more time while kinks are worked out, while some are much easier to crank out in a short time span. Writing is unpredictable and can go in so many directions, and can be overwhelming for those who aren’t ready.
3 – Writers truly are their own worst critics
This is good because writers constantly find the need to refine their craft, to continuously go through their work with a red pen and mark up the page until it practically looks bloody. However, this can also make the writer self-doubt, and it can be difficult for a writer to know when is the proper time to go ahead and seek publication due to this balance of knowing their work has some level of merit, but needs further refinement. The truth is, a piece of writing can always be better, and publication is really a matter of knowing when it’s time to move forward anyway, when the trade-off between the time spent making a piece better is not worth as much as it used to be further down the line.
4 – Writers work for a long time without any monetary gain
I started getting serious about my writing (as serious as I could’ve gotten at that age, I suppose) when I was 13. Seven years later, I’ll be getting my first paycheck. Not that I’m complaining because I love writing and wouldn’t trade it for any other hobby, but many other hobbies have a much faster payoff. Athletes are able to compete pretty soon after they pick up a sport, and most people go to college and get a four-year degree before their first job. As a writer, I’m going to college as well, but this training I began in writing and kept up for the last seven years will finally begin to pay off this September. It takes a long time for a writer to find their own style and many failed attempts before it is established. But even then, it continues to be refined and changes constantly.
5 – Writers must do research
There is no question about this. No matter what genre someone writes, research is going to be involved on some level. If it’s not, it will be glaringly obvious to experts in those fields. For example, a writer who doesn’t swim who writes a character capable of winning high school swimming championships will need to look up what a fast time is, what the strokes are called, and take a trip to a swimming pool and spend time in the water to experience what the water feels like, and extrapolate what that might feel like to a swimmer. Swimmer friends need to be recruited and interviewed, and then the writer must pick out the important pieces of information and find a way to incorporate these details well. This is just one example. In the past I have rock climbed, been a journalist, and skateboarded (then longboarded) in order to possibly use these experiences when writing characters in the future. This was one of my most rewarding experiences as a writer, as I have come to absolutely love rock climbing and use it as a way to keep physically fit.
However, some things cannot be so easily researched. Take abuse, for example. This is something I have never personally experienced, so I have combed articles, carefully asked friends with more experience, and read up on what is realistic and the aftermath of what happens after such difficult events. This is a difficult and long process, but so worth it because I come out of it understanding so many more people, and with a new level of empathy for those who go through abuse.
In short, writing is actually a more stressful hobby than one might think from the outside, but it’s so enjoyable and so worth it for those who are able to put forth the effort to ensure the process is completed. I know that the time I spent writing during high school is well worth it, and is finally about to pay off. I couldn’t be more excited about the beginning of this publication journey and where it leads me, as well as where I’ll be going from here. The possibilities are endless – that is the beauty of writing!
Thank you for your time, and I welcome your thoughts and would love to hear from you!