Someone recently asked me: Which part of writing a book is hardest: beginning, middle, or end?
I answered honestly: All three.
I remember the day more than fifteen years ago when I finished my first book. Though I’d read thousands of books, writing one was far harder than I’d imagined. I can’t (or don’t want to) remember how many months or years it took to put together those first ninety thousand words down in recognizable form. Emboldened by my success at writing one book, I quickly started on another. The keyword in that sentence was started.
For some reason I thought once one was complete, writing another would be easy, that somehow beautiful words would magically fall from my fingertips to keyboard. That didn’t happen. Writing book two was the same tooth pulling exercise writing book one had been. Then I thought the magic would happen at book three.
I’m a slow learner. It wasn’t until book five or six that I realized that there was no secret magic. I was sure that if I talked to other authors and waited for lighting to strike that I’d learn the secret formula to writing books. That one day it would wake up and become easy. But it wasn’t to be.
The one fact I discovered about life is a full time writer is that it wasn’t ever going to get much easier. It reminds me of something else I’ve always found difficult—running.
I took my son to run his first race this weekend. As I watched the runners line up in the starting gates, I remembered what it had been like when I’d run local races. I trained nearly everyday. Despite that, running remained hard. I could run farther and faster, but the effort of putting one foot in front of the other was one of the most difficult things I’d ever done. Running mile five or eight or ten was as difficult as running mile one. There wasn’t a mile marker that I didn’t pass and wonder what in the heck was I doing outside running. Runners were other people. Those leggy, lean people who looked like they were in some kind of Zen fugue, while I was huffing and puffing my way to the finish line.
For many years writers remained other people, too. Beautiful words of prose seem to slip from their fingers like magic. I was a runner then. I’m a writer now. Ease doesn’t come with either title.
Today I talked to someone I haven’t seen a few years. He’s working on a novel and wanted to know the secret to finishing. I had to tell him what I’d learned from writing nine novels and what I was learning from struggling through number ten.
Writing is like running. Just as a runner puts one foot in front of another, the writer has to keep typing one word, then another, then another, until you get to the end. There are no shortcuts.
(p.s. if there’s some secret shortcut, fellow authors, you know how to reach me)
Sylvie Fox is the author of In Plain Sight, Under Color of Law, Qualified Immunity and The Good Enough Husband. She’s also the author of Unlikely, Impasse, and Shaken from the first three books in the sexy, contemporary L.A. Nights series. Don’t Judge Me, and The Secret Widow from the Judgment series. When she’s not battling traffic on the freeways of Los Angeles, she’s eating her way through Budapest.