Writing about Writing

How many stories do you read about writers? About the writing process (but in a fictional setting)? About getting writer’s block?

All right, I’ll admit Misery is staring down at me from the top shelf, but other than that, how many of them do we read from big-name authors? Feel free to put them in my comments.

TV and movies admit there are blocked writers, but the conflict of the story line does not revolve around the writer and whatever tale is attempting to come out. They’re more often trying to understand something from life like relationships or another facet of work – like digging deeper when a report doesn’t make sense.

So why does it seem amateurs often write about writers writing? Is it the write what we know thing, where that’s all the writer has figured out? Or is it more about trying to explain away the obsession of writing to those unafflicted with the disease?

Sometimes a writer is a perfect choice of protagonist to find out certain stories and the things behind them, but if we get too bogged down in the actual writing we will miss the fun conflict of the real story.

A book I grew up with that had a writer at the core was Harriet the Spy. She was never lost for words, however, which ultimately got her into trouble when her notebook was taken and read by her classmates. Even though she wanted more than anything to be a writer and those notes were how she worked on her craft, I’m sure far fewer adolescents reading the book would turn the next page if she agonized over whether to use chartreuse, lime green, or that icky green from the crossing-guard’s jacket. I wanted to keep reading because Harriet kept getting in trouble and trying to do something and her observations provided me more information about the story as it unfolded.

Well, it might also have to do with liking writing and also conspicuously carrying around a notebook – but who knows?

Take another look at that drafted novel with the writer at the center who chews on his pencils or crosses out word after word in her notebooks. Are you giving the reader a plot point? Is that word going to be important later? Or are you filling space that could otherwise be used to tell a compelling story that will keep your reader turning page after page? Don’t be afraid to cut out the boring stuff, even if it means you don’t share with your reader the perfect torture of finding the correct word. If they’re writers, they already know. And if they’re not, they don’t care.

I know it’s heartless, but I’m a writer and I still don’t care about another writer’s search for the right words through writer’s block or whatever. I want a story with conflict and all the proper words thrown in without hearing about how the writer got there. I struggle enough with the correct thing to say on my own, thank you very much. Tell me how much you want to hear that here, too.

P.S. For anyone who is a blocked writer out there – the writer’s block links all point to fun links to help a writer beat the block.

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