This week’s guest contributor is Barbara G.Tarn, an indie published author who loves to write. What’s the balance for you between the joy of writing and the need for recognition, audience, income or however else you envision rewards? (Lynda Williams)
I started writing in my teens, pre-internet, and in Italy. There were no creative writing courses nor agents around. I started jotting down stories thinking one day a publisher would knock on my door and publish them. (OK, I still believed in fairy tales!). By my 30s I started going to comicons and producing my own zines.
I kept churning out stories and started going to book fairs, which brought me a little closer to my original dream of being published. With the New Millennium came also the first writing courses that taught me POV and other stuff I had never thought about, and I met my first English speaking writers group.
As my confidence grew in English, I kept writing. At first I translated (“recycled” old stories), but then I started writing directly in English. I have so many more stories to tell and more come up every day… and I enjoy it in spite of critiques, so I’ll keep doing it no matter what. It has become a routine for me, go home and write. OK, feel free to tell me to get a life, but I’m quite pleased with the one I have, thank you!
I’m also very much a Pantser, with very loose outlines, although I’ve now written down a Silvery Earth bible for obvious reasons, as the many stories cover many centuries and countries, and I have also many family trees. I like to improvise or follow my characters wherever they want to take me. I also write “in reverse”, bones first, meat in the rewrites, so my first drafts are usually quite short, but at least I put the story out there.
I recently had a comment on my blog: “I hope you manage to relax as well as work during your little holiday!” My answer: “I relax only when I ‘work’!
I call writing my real job, but I don’t feel it is work. When I force myself to stop and take a break, I itch to continue. Writing is a compulsion, an addiction, my husband, my love(r) and my happiness.
Do you love the actual writing or dread it? Are you in it to make money or to have fun?
Barbara G.Tarn is a writer, sometimes an artist, mostly a world-creator and story-teller. She’s been building her world of Silvery Earth for a number of years – stories comprise shorts, novels and graphic novels. An indie published author, she blogs at http://creativebarbwire.wordpress.com
38 thoughts on “Writer’s Craft #24 – The Joy of Writing”
While I had to look up “pantser” –as I knew it could not be the classic http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pantser — I pretty much am the same.
I start with a single idea which could be caused by anything at all and toss a quick first draft around it to keep the kernel of what caught my attention to start with. I detest applying the rigour of outline/draft/edit/draft/ ad nauseum, which is odd, since that is the exact equivalent of the process(es) I use for a living. Regardless, with me, it writes itself or it doesn’t. I write because I get exactly the same satisfaction from it that I do from flying, scuba, rock climbing or repairing old watches. If I had to do it to earn my rent and toys, it would take away the “oh, gee” factor and would end it for me. I do some of my best (and opinions definitely vary) writing on my battered old Palm Pilot when my work takes me out of town and I’m between tasks.
John, are you British? I got the very same objection from a British friend about “Pantser”! 🙂
We seem to be very much the same kind of writer… and I think often rewriting too much spoils the original idea and I have to go back to it. Trying to please every reader on the planet is only confusing, so I’d rather stick to whatever I tried to say in the first place… some will love it, some will hate it, but there’s nothing I can do about it, right?
“John, are you British? I got the very same objection from a British friend about “Pantser”!
We seem to be very much the same kind of writer… and I think often rewriting too much spoils the original idea and I have to go back to it. Trying to please every reader on the planet is only confusing, so I’d rather stick to whatever I tried to say in the first place… some will love it, some will hate it, but there’s nothing I can do about it, right?”
British? No, dyed in the wool Toronto wop here 🙂
I absolutely agree with you. The story is the story, regardless of what anyone else thinks about it. I suppose that’s a bit cowardly in another way of looking at it, being unwilling to let the market decide the “value” of what has been written. I admire writers making a living at it who have not suddenly sprouted up a previously unseen crop of vampires, zombies or other fad-of-the-day items into their work.
Do you love the actual writing or dread it? Are you in it to make money or to have fun?
Both, and both. But that’s not an answer, is it? I write because 2 1/2 years ago I had a dream that was so powerful I couldn’t ignore it. Unfortunately, I never took a creative writing class so all of my learning is on my own. This means I spend months, maybe a year, pouring over literature (always by nobel prize winning authors or similar) to see how they handled drawing an ‘antagonist’. I will then write, rewrite, and rewrite again my own antagonist. Oi. Now this isnt’ fun. (And I do this for all aspects, like what is a prologue? What is internal character struggle? POV? The three act story? Showing not telling?)
Do I want to make money? This means I’d have to read amazon reviews of my work, so I’m not sure. When I finally get my story looking like I want it to then I”ll revisit this question 🙂
Theory is one thing, actually writing and finishing a story is something else! 😉 I’m kind of happy I didn’t have any of those resources available when I started writing…
And don’t worry too much about technicalities. I dread the beta-readers comments, but the actual writing must be fun! 😉
I grew up reading the likes of H.P. Lovecraft. Talk about having some bad writing techniques to unlearn! Creative writing courses and workshops taught me the rules, which I then proceeded gleefully to break. I firmly believe you need to know the rigorous structure of standards. Understanding how others use language, and what they see as “proper” and “correct” gives you a template to work with. Technicalities are tools which you use to achieve your evil plans (which are, of course, writing your story the way you want to write it, to hell with what the writing gurus say). It gives you grounds to go back to the beta readers and editors and say, “No, I’m doing it this way deliberately, and here’s why…”
I confess I am a grammar geek and compulsive proofreader who fusses over commas as part of the revising i love almost as much as the initial act of draft-birth. Hemingway (whom I otherwise have little use for) said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” I take that metaphorically, as writing in the drunken euphoria of creation, then revising with a rational and sober eye. That’s how you end up with something excellent of which you can be proud.
I love that -“Write drunk, edit sober.” Just how it went for me, too. Euphoric, passionate outpouring followed by years of learning the craft of writing fiction, revising, editing, and fussing over every comma.
Great post! Like Barbara, I only feel happy when I am “working” (or just after I have put in a good day’s work, I suppose). But that doesn’t mean I don’t dread it sometimes too. B/c it doesn’t always go smoothly… 😛
I do want to make a living off my writing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not in it for fun too!
Of course it doesn’t always go smoothly, but I don’t punish myself if one day I don’t write. As long as I know I can stick to my own deadlines, who cares if one day I write 500 words and the next 5000? Figure out what routine is best for you and you’re all set! 😉 Nothing is going to stop you!
Go, Kristan! 😀
Personally, I’ve always loved to write. I make some money as a professional writer. But some days the pressure (self generated) to master (unlikely to happen) the marketing spoils the joy. On the other hand, it would be no fun to write without someone to share it with. I am fortunate to have a small but wonderful following interested in my work, some of whom like it enough to contribute to the Okal Rel Universe through novellas or anthologies. So the joy of writing, for me, does require some joy of sharing, as well. The biggest threat is the risk of “growing up” or maybe it is more a case of growing cynical. Writing was always the way I worked out my frustrations in life, and recharged my faith in it at the same time.
I am still building that following, and it’s what I actually look forward to it. Sharing my writing is a new joy I barely tasted when I did my zines back in the 90s and I sure hope to be able to get more readers through the internet…
Thanks for everything! 🙂
Like most of us who have “the disease”, I started writing when I was a young and have always self-identified as a writer, regardless of what I did to earn a living. There is no question, I write for the joy of it. But I’m also like the little kid who is pleased and proud of what she’s created and just about bursts with delight at having it put up on the bulletin board for all to see and praise. I want to share, and have my pleasure in my creation validated by the approval of others. Therein lies the rub: what I write pleases my quirky, peculiar tastes, but will I ever find an audience that likes it as much as I do? Marketing is about finding and connecting to that audience, and in marketing there is no joy.
I am at least earning a regular paycheck writing for a local big city newspaper as a “freelance philosopher”, which is fun and has gotten me some modest recognition. But my heart is in my fiction. Me and several million other writers, all competing for those few, coveted chairs at the big table. I’m not a terribly ambitious, competitive person, and I’d rather write than research markets, and I’m too damn stubborn to write for specific markets. My writing time is too precious to waste it writing crap for commercial venues. The idealistic priorities I’ve set for myself will probably damn me to obscurity.
I wish all of you the best of luck in finding that sweet spot that balances the joy of the work and the necessary drudgery of the business end of it. I spent a lot of years in magical thinking (If I write it They will come) and like Barb, had to deal with the fact that you can believe in fairies all you want, but it doesn’t make them real. Just writing it isn’t enough.
I’m not really marketing yet. I blog, I have a Facebook author account, I’m on Goodreads (but haven’t figured out how to reach readers there yet), I promised myself to contact book review bloggers (but never did) and I’m hopeless at marketing. I don’t Tweet and do what basically works for me only (i.e not much! ;-)). I count on the number of titles to find my readers – when I have 20 or so out (novels, shorts, novellas, graphic novels), I’m bound to come up during some reader’s search for something new, right? 😉
Just writing isn’t enough indeed. You have to muster the courage to put it out there. You’ll be discovered sooner or later. It’s not a lottery, a get-rich-quick thing, it’s a slow thing and if you have faith in your capabilities, I’m sure you can make it. I know I will! 🙂
The “sweet spot”. I like that one Justine. 🙂 And for the record, success in the form of lots of readers has come to those who practiced and practiced until they had exactly what they wanted even if it took years. It might be a chancier way to seek an audience than focusing on the marketing, first, but all ways of being a writer are chancy ones.
Did you got publishing opportunities by going to “book fairs”?
At book fairs I talked to publishers, yes. When I submitted to some, I discovered they were vanity (pay-to-publish).
I switched languages and started my blog and reading other people’s blogs… so I discovered Smashwords and all the indie movement.
I might look for a traditional publisher when I finish my historical novel, but my fantasy books are not really marketable to trad.pub. – who wants adult fantasy when the marketing rage is YA? So I just thought I’d do it myself, like I did in the 1990s with my comics and graphic novels…
Why write if not for the joy – and passion, and fun!? I couldn’t, myself. No outlines or plotting for me! Never planned to be a writer, but one day, I wrote a very short story in my journal for a character who’d been bugging me for years. Thought maybe he’d shut up, but NO! That story opened the floodgates and two years later, after staying up til 2:00AM, neglecting career, husband, pets & plants, found I’d written an entire fantasy trilogy. ten years later, after going up the learning curve of writing fiction, revising, editing, etc., etc.. now about to get the first book published. What a ride!!
Thanks for sharing your good news, Rahima. Congratulations. It’s like having a baby, isn’t it? One with a ten-year-plus gestation. I know THAT feeling. 🙂 The Okal Rel Saga grew up with me. In one form or another it has been around since I was a kid. First novel published in 2002 but it really got rolling in 2005.
Thanks, Lynda! Interesting that these characters/stories have lived in us since we were little kids. I do wonder where they come from? What do you think? Just sent my final-final (I hope!) ms. to my publisher. Phew! Gosh, now what? I’m all awhirl!
Well it’s true the firste embers of Silvery Earth come from my childhood… although it evolved through the years! 🙂 Congrats to Rahima, I now have a few more authors to check… argh! I wan’t to quit Day Job to be albe to read and write more!!! 😀
Well done Barb and best of luck with it all.
As the British auhtor who found pantser a strange word(I saw the other definition first) I wish you every success.
Thank you, Viv, same to you! 🙂
I write for the joy of it, and like Justine, am like the little kid who wants to put what she’s done on the bulletin board. Sure, I’d like to make some money at it, but I’m not planning to quit my day job…
As one who is utterly unqualified for any other sort of job, I feel a lot less like a waste of space when my writing earns me a few dollars. 🙂
You are a power behind the blog here at Clarion! 🙂
Besides, writers — like other artists — do important work reflecting the world, to make sure it stays up. It’s one of those poorly compensated but vital jobs like trees producing oxygen and mothers raising children. For good or for evil, we interpret the world and influence it through the interpretation. Which is why I worry about all the reality TV, “mean culture” and evil elfs out there there days, sometimes. I think the fictionverse might be darkening. 😦
It does seem to be darkening out there. Perhaps our job as writers is- in addition to reflecting the world – also to explore the darkness and find and point out the path back to the light.
The darkness is seductive from the safety of the author’s perspective. So I agree with you, but only if the exploration reveals and firms up lines that should not be crossed and consequences that do not go away when we hit “reset”. I know gaming is into “story” these days, but if there’s something a traditional story with an author-crafted plot can do that a game cannot, it’s create an emotional argument against evil. I say evil and good as short-hand for very complex ideas, of course. But at least SF/Fantasy still have the ethical balls to talk about them.
What I find discouraging is (what I consider) a lack of courage in contemporary writing. I don’t mean there’s a lack of will to tackle dark subject matter — quite the opposite. Fiction authors revel in moral ambiguities, horrors and the complexities of evil. What they lack is the courage to take a stand on it. I have more respect for writers who dare to propose possible solutions to the evils they paint, who offer an argument why “good” is superior to “evil” in more than simple-minded, black vs. white terms. I prefer stories that take the reader through the labyrinth of darkness, but also show a way back to the light.
Hope it’s OK to mention my book in this regard, but it seems so relevant. What I have tried to do in it is to “show the consequences of evil” and ‘A way back to the light.” The hero starts out knowing only evil, and slowly learns about kindness and love, which sends him into deep remorse, and on a journey to healing, repentance and forgiveness, drawing on my experience as a psychotherapist.
Me, too, Justine. It’s fear of being lumped with the losers, I think. Evil is powerful so let’s be evil and mock the good guy who won’t do something despicable to win. My novel, Righteous Anger, is about “the line”. Horth is ambitious, but he takes his culture’s prohibition against destroying habitat in the pursuit of military gain very seriously and has to make a dreadful choice in defense of the greater good. My main hero, Amel, often loses … at least in the short run. But he achieves good in the process and does as much good as he can in trying circumstances. That’s heroic in my book. And never belittling. But I confess I felt the need to have him gain ground and power in the system as the series progresses and he learns it’s necessary.
And yes, Rahima, it is always okay to mention your books when you feel a connection with the topic. But give us the title and a link, maybe, too!
Thanks, Lynda! My book will be published this September by Rose Press. The title is “The Star-Seer’s Prophecy – Book One: Dark Innocence.” My website will be rahimawarren.com – it is currently under construction. (If you like, you could explore my artistic website, with some of my paintings, poems, dreams, dialogs, etc, at http://www.soulplay.com.)
P.S. What is your website, Lynda? Your books sound quite interesting!
You can meet some of my characters via my daughter’s character banners at http://jellodvds.deviantart.com/gallery/30119129
The list of titles in the print or available on the web (scroll down) is at
And kind of you to ask. All writers commenting on the Writer’s Craft are expected to talk about their books and most importantly what’s in them and why. 🙂
wow, I love the covers and the deviantart drawings! 🙂
My ToBuy list is neverending, sigh! 😦
Rahima, took a stroll through your soul art. And thanks Barb. I know what you mean. It would be lovely to have at least a “starter hunk” of the Okal Rel Saga to be free to give away since it is only after people get into the characters and setting that it’s special. Before that it’s one more story in a big big sea. Used to be quick to innovate in ways like that, but getting old I guess. 🙂 It’s something I and my publisher will discuss some con soon. In the meantime, it’s almost a relief to know I cannot legally go ahead and do somethingl ike that without publisher agreement. Takes the pressure off. Seems there is always something one should be doing for promotion and I never got into writing out of a compulsive desire to self-promote. So bumbling along finding my own way as ever.
Thanks for taking a peek at my site, Lynda. Wow, I sure can relate to your last sentence there. I didn’t get into this because I love to self-promote, either. Far from it! So I am also bumbling along in this brave new world of social media!