Effort Over Insight When Writing a Novel

As a novelist, I would not dare ignore the value of insight. But from my own experiences and the words of writers of infinitely more renown than myself, I know that effort – the will to continue no matter what – is the prime attribute for any successful writer.

Many times I have spoken with people, who after learning that I have written a novel, tell me that they too want to write a book; they have a story to tell, a plot and interesting characters that the world needs to know about. Do they have insight? The world will never know until they make an effort to write the first sentence of the first chapter of their first book.

Writing can be an exhausting effort if you have no passion for itGrinding Words Out

There are days, sprinkled thinly over the writer’s life, when his or her fingers seem pulled along by an invisible, psychic force. Your characters move in your mind’s eye, and you merely follow them, scribing as a journalist. However, the bulk of the writing process involves grinding the words out. I hate those days as does any artist. It’s not easy-it’s work, and if we wanted to work, we wouldn’t be writing! Then the rewrite process begins; your second, third or Nth draft. Where was it that the muse was whispering in your ear? Chapter six? You can’t tell the difference between the hard days and the carefree “insightful” days! You may have to adjust several times, sentences, which during your period of euphoric trance, seem to say exactly what you wanted your audience to know or feel. Only through polishing your sentences, again and again, can your prose gleam.

Desire to Exert Effort

We do love our heroes – those people who were born with an effortless talent. The athlete, writer, actor, public speaker. Tiger Woods, Stephen King, John Kennedy. Magnified by the media’s lens, they are modern Greek heroes who give us hope that there is something beyond what we experience day to day: Drudgery and hard work. But if you were to glimpse behind the scene, you would see the cold truth. They do indeed have something magical inside them. It’s called desire, and that desire drives them to inhuman levels of effort.

So, in ending, know what the greatest writers of our time know and have agreed on in their essays: Yes, the writer does hope to awaken to a day of insightful and brilliant exposition and sometimes it does happen. But he realizes that insight is a product of labor, a sifting of words until only the most valuable and true ones remain.

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