Hi guys! Happy Wednesday! I hope the week has been treating you well! I have another awesome guest post for you today! Maxine Kaplan, author of THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL and fellow Electric 18, is here to give us a much needed dose of tough love! For those of you sitting around waiting for the stars to perfectly align so you can write, you NEED to read this!
I think we all need to hear this from time to time, and I especially needed to hear it today! So, thank you so much, Maxine! This post is the kick in the pants I needed!
So read on, writers! And be sure to show Maxine some love! :)
I am here to burst your bubble: Writing isn’t magic.
Oh, writing can occasionally feel like magic. When you’re just typing along and out of nowhere discover some previously inconceivable and delightful fact about what was formerly a side character, that can absolutely feel like you've tripped over a talking frog. Or when a plotting problem that would not go away solves itself in an en entirely unrelated scene—that has to be what pulling a sword from a hunk of British granite feels like. I’m not saying magic isn’t relevant to the practice of writing. But it’s a bug and decidedly not a feature.
I don’t blame you for being disappointed. What writers aren’t readers, and what readers aren’t deeply invested in the exploration or at least the facsimile of magic? Even if you don’t call it “magic,” I believe a large number of the people who dream of putting words on a page secretly expect some external force to blow through their minds, strap their bodies down, and shove the words out of their fingertips with the unstoppable force of a hurricane. I know I did. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. Want to know when I started writing my first novel? Seventeen. Years. Later.
For years I waited for the right idea to take me over, to inflame my passion, to focus my talent—which, for the record, I never really doubted that I possessed. This isn’t an issue of confidence, but one of expectation. I waited for the Inspiration Fairy to appear to me in a dream and say, “It is your turn, Maxine. Here is your story.”
Didn’t happen. You know what did happen? I got restless waiting for that damn flake of a pixie to show up. I got frustrated with the inaction. In essence, I got bored with not writing.
Because here is the secret: Writing is active, not passive. “Writing” doesn’t even exist as something apart from you. And when you expect it to turn up out of the blue one day to delight you, you are setting yourself up for a world of unnecessary hurt. Here’s the truth: Your writing, as it exists now, in the neo-natal, not-yet-actualized, not-yet-on-the-page phase? It is not at all magical. Neither is mine. Neither is that NYT bestselling author’s. Or that one. Or the one over there. No one cracks their knuckles and busts out a perfect 80,000 words in a week.
And that is because writing isn’t magic. Writing is just writing. Writing is sitting down and putting one word in front of the other until it eventually resembles a story. Writing is keeping going until you finish that story. And writing is breaking that story into all of its messy and disparate parts and finessing them one by one, and then together, until eventually, after the third or fourth try, you feel as though you’ve represented what was in your head.
You cannot fix what you do not write. I have found that unless I accept and embrace what is least magical about writing, there will be no story to share. That’s the painstaking reordering of events in order to maximize drama; the sentence written sixteen different times until it doesn’t sound moronic; the drilling down of a character’s motivation until someone who isn’t me will be able to understand what it is; and especially the flat and frustratingly slow accumulation of words until that first draft is done and you get to finally type, “The End.”
But if you can force yourself into it, you get to tell your story. That part does feel like magic. And, maybe, just maybe, you get to change how you see yourself. Because it’s not that there is no Inspiration Fairy:
You are the Inspiration Fairy.
So gas up your pumpkin-carriage and get to work. But this isn’t New Jersey: You’re going to have to pump the gas yourself.
Maxine Kaplan was born in Washington, DC. She and her twin sister spent their early childhoods trotting behind their journalist parents as they traveled around the world, eventually settling in Brooklyn, NY. Maxine graduated from Oberlin College in 2007. Following a long stint in the world of publishing, she has worked as a private investigator since 2009. She lives in her adopted hometown of Brooklyn, NY, with her lovely husband and complex cat. THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL is her debut novel. Follow Maxine on Twitter @MaxineGKaplan
THE ACCIDENTAL BAD GIRL (May 15, 2018 Abrams /Amulet)
After getting caught hooking up with her best friend’s ex on the last day of junior year, Kendall starts senior year friendless and ostracized. She plans to keep her head down until she graduates. But after discovering her online identity has been hacked and she’s being framed for stealing from a dealer, Kendall is drawn into a tenuous partnership with the mastermind of a drug ring lurking in the shadows of her Brooklyn private school. If she wants to repair her tattered reputation and save her neck, she’ll have to decide who she really is—and own it. The longer she plays the role of “bad girl,” the more she becomes her new reputation. Friends and enemies, detectives and drug dealers—no one is who they appear to be. Least of all Kendall.
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