I feel some capital letters coming on, so bear with me.

I used to be a process junkie. Every conference I attended, every workshop or class, I wanted to know, "What is your process?"

Because mine may as well have looked like this:

Of course, what I really wanted to know was, "How do you write a book?" Because who wants to try and fail and try and fail and try and fail if you can just ask someone else, some other successful person, how they did it and then copy the crap out of them?

"Write an outline," they said.

"Find out what is in your character's pocket," they said. "Nothing," I said. "But if they did have something, what would it be?" they said.


"Try this sixty-seven point, fold-a-paper, pretend you're a snowflake method. Works for me every time," they said.

So I tried (and still try) all of those things. And failed (and still fail).

BUT I have figured out that I can't work with an outline. And that even if my characters had something in their pockets, I wouldn't care, and that I am wonderfully horrible at anything with more than three steps. I also figured out we all have some process related things in common and that pop up with every book:

YOU HAVE TO DO ALL THE THINGS. There aren't any magic beans and for every fifty-seven things you try, you may end up with one or two that stick and become your process.

WRITING IS HARD AND YOU ARE NOT A GENIUS. Beethoven and Hawking are geniuses. Just know that if the sneaky part of your mind is telling you, "you don't have to listen to that critique/change that plotline/kill off that character," then you probably do. Because you are not a genius.

DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE "FEELING IT." I would literally never get out of bed if I waited for my feelings to show up.

TAKE BREAKS. Just because you decided to be a writer does not mean your children should have to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the rest of their lives.

YOU MUST BE COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR FLAWS. Or, at least, know what they are. Or at the very least, know that you have them. Writing a book has this amazing ability to call forth every one of your flaws in bright screaming Technicolor and possibly stereo and then challenge them to a duel.

Please know that my capital letters are for the stubborn, know-it-all, perfectionist crazy-head that is writing this post. If you know a stubborn, know-it-all, perfectionist crazy-head writer/human, feel free to share.


  1. I love this so much. I was recently at a conference with another (debut) author. My story: It took seven and a half years of full-time work to sell a book. It takes my agent an average of a year to a year and a half to sell a book. Her story: I wrote a book, got an agent on the first attempt, and over the weekend, she had multiple offers!

    Needless to say, all the would-be authors wanted to talk to her, not to me. NO one wants to hear that it takes years and crazy amounts of work. NO one wants to know there are no shortcuts. But you are so right--there are none. That's the beautiful and maddening part of the whole thing...

    1. Took me 15 years of writing and submitting to get my first book published. SCBWI helped me out of the slush pile. But how many years of practicing piano before your first concert? Maybe 15 years is not so bad.

  2. Yes, Holly! There is something mesmerizing about the lottery winners. It makes me sad in a way. I want fellow writers to experience what I have in all it's glory. Writing has made me a better person.

  3. Such a great post! Yes, writing is hard and scary work. It's messy and there are no guarantees that you are even going in a right direction. (I say a right direction, not the right direction, because, like love, there are many directions in a story that could evolve beautifully). Thank you for this reminder!

  4. I may have to put this in MY pocket, Tracy. ;)

  5. The lottery winners are going to be shocked when their second novel doesn't go quite as well -- and some may never be able to write another one!

  6. Yes. This! I wish there was an easy, magic formula, but the hard work makes the end result so much more rewarding. Thanks for sharing.

  7. That is most likely very true, Jane. I have heard many such stories (and I'll take my own slug process over that any day). And Kerry - every day I wish for a magic formula for at least ONE book. Sigh.

  8. and me to the LOVE THIS SO MUCH (this is me) crowd. Thanks for writing it. Off to share it everywhere.

  9. OH so true! A lovely reminder as I slog out a new first draft wondering if there is some easier way (PLEASE let there be some easier way) and knowing that there isn't. :-) Thx!

  10. Tracy, you make me want to crawl out of my cave. Thank you!!!! I still love your book!

  11. Yes! Leave the cave! And it may not get easier, but it gets better. Sort of.

  12. Awesome post, Tracy!! Thank you. So many good reminders and validation.


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