I can hardly say with much authority what the hardest thing is about writing. Every author is different, although most would agree on certain areas of difficulty, such as finding the time (for the vast majority who cannot, or never will, pursue writing as a full-time job this is huge), developing characters, coping with self-doubt (this becomes all the more daunting when a writer’s aim is to become a full-time author), plot construction, and the time-worn, well-known, persistent curse of “writer’s block.” All these challenges are real even if seasonal for many writers as they come and go (like a failed harvest, failed whether plagued by drought or by floods). I’m not immune to any of these, and might, over time, find I’m even more vulnerable to them than I now think I am. However, there is one particular struggle I commonly experience that isn’t (or doesn’t seem to be) shared by many writers … by the way, I arrive at this conclusion as a reader and not as a writer.
Here it is: crafting the exact right words in just the right way to say exactly what needs to be said, in the way in which it needs to be said, without any misdirection, misadventure, or derailing superfluousness.
Eesh! What does that mean?? It doesn’t, necessarily, mean using fewer words (as a poet might do), or by using “correct” grammar and syntax as an academic might do, or by using five-dollar words (as a lawyer might do). What I mean is finding precisely the best words, arranged in the best way, to tell the best story possible without letting the reader know he/she is actually reading. Suspending disbelief as letters become words, words become sentences, and sentences become real: watching and feeling the story with all of its anxieties, joys, losses, triumphs, failures, and expectations.
I sit at my keyboard, not usually wrestling with plot or characters or a “blank screen” (although these hurdles do occur). Instead, I sit at my keyboard, surveying those twenty-six letters and the myriad of punctuation marks, and I struggle to piece them together into precise instruments of storytelling—genuine storytelling, the kind where you want to get up, sell all your belongings, and jump headlong into the pages, shouting, “I’m here!”
For those of you who are, and have been so very patiently, waiting on the second book—on Nicolas’ next journey into Telluric Grand—know it’s coming. I’m very near the end of A Murder of Crows. My publisher is primed and ready. My editor is waiting in the wings. And I’m struggling to get it right. To tell the story, each word of it, in a way where you, like the quiet boy from a small farm outside Plumpton Head, England, can find your way there through a magical door made of words.