The “Why” Behind the Words

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This post is supposed to be about why I wrote my Pitch Wars novel*.  Which requires I have some sort of answer about why I wrote my Pitch Wars novel.  And it can’t be my instinctive answer, which is “Because I did.”  It has to be a real answer.

This is going to require some thought – and if I have to suffer through a bout of thinking, then you do too.

So.

Why write CLIFF WITH NO EDGE?  Why write about an awesome inventor chick who can manipulate both machinery and magic?  Why write about the dark place her poor (but well-intentioned) choices took her, and her struggle to escape?  Or about a city cut into a dead volcano and plagued by a predatory forest?

“Because that’s freaking awesome” is not a good enough answer.  Other people think about awesome stuff without writing a book.  But I’m going to save the entertainment factor as part of the answer, because I wouldn’t have bothered finishing the thing if I hadn’t thought it was awesome.

OK, new approach…

Why write a book at all?  For that matter, why didn’t I stop after the first one?  Why go through all the critiques and revisions and rejections when I’m perfectly aware that there’s a strong possibility the only people who read my book will be my critique group and my dad?  Why write at all?

My adorable new kitten Atlas, who crawled out from under a loading dock when his eyes were barely open.  I spent most of September hand-feeding him.  He is now fat and good at scampering!

My adorable new kitten Atlas, who crawled out from under a loading dock when his eyes were barely open. I spent most of September hand-feeding him. He is now fat and good at scampering!

I could just play with my chinchillas and new kitten, watching Sherlock over and over.  It’s not like I sit around all day and need to write to feel productive.  I have a day job I’m passionate about, one I don’t foresee giving up even if the writing thing works out exceedingly well.  There are other things I could do that bring me joy that also come with a lot less of the pain (see “critiques and revisions and rejections”).

Good point, subconscious.

The easy answer is that I can’t not.  I write because I do.  Discussion over!  But because it’s the easy answer, it’s also inaccurate.  I’ve gone without writing before, for days, months, even a couple fallow years between college and the beginning of my wildlife rehabilitation career.  But so far, I always come back to it.

Other people’s reasons don’t fit.  I don’t have tragic and/or scarring life experiences I work out and share with others through writing.  My stories aren’t committed to advancing a particular agenda, though of course they tend to reflect my beliefs about the world at some level.  Writing is not my only chance at a happy career.  Sometimes I experience a thrill when I read words that are set in a particularly pleasing order, but I’m not chasing a love of the words themselves.

I guess the truth is that, like many writers, I get something from the act of writing.  Something addictive.  Even when it’s hard and frustrating it’s still worthwhile, but the why is intangible to me.  The book “The Midnight Disease” talks about brain chemistry, psychology, and writing, and turns out there may be some very good brain-chemistry reasons writers write.  Maybe that’s the whole of it.

But I don’t think so.  What I get out of the process itself is only another piece of the puzzle, or else I wouldn’t worry about showing my work to other people.  Thus far, we’ve only talked about me – and that’s terribly rude.

In my opinion, a story is incomplete until it is heard.  Readers close the loop the writer initiates.

I’m a reader too, have been since a very young age.  That feeling of immersion, when I sink so deeply into a world that I feel like I’m walking through fog as I feed the cat or brush my teeth, is one of the most precious parts of the reading experience for me.  And then when you finish a book that resonated with you – you’re left grasping for more, feeling like you’ve come so far and lived so long, knowing that somehow the entire world shifted while you were reading and you’re not sure you know exactly how yet…  Incredible.  It’s a kind of binding, that level of communication – beautiful, and deeply human.

Another gratuitous picture of Atlas.

Another gratuitous picture of Atlas.

I want to do that for people.  In order to do that, I have to write books.  I have to try my hardest every time, and put something of myself into each one.  And that, I think, is why I wrote CLIFF WITH NO EDGE.

If you’d like to read about why other Pitch War mentees and alternates wrote their Pitch War submissions, click on the links at the bottom of this post.  I’ve read some of them already, and there are some fantastic stories.  I promise you won’t be disappointed!


*In case you missed it, I was chosen as Whitney Fletcher’s alternate mentee for a contest called Pitch Wars back in September.  I am extremely grateful for Whitney’s help refining my query, writing my short pitch, and editing my novel’s early chapters.  He has been awesome to work with, and without his insight I wouldn’t be nearly as excited and hopeful as I start pitching CLIFF WITH NO EDGE directly to agents this month.  If you have a novel at or nearing the query stage, I cannot recommend Brenda Drake’s contests (including Pitch Wars) strongly enough.  Brenda is so supportive and giving, and her contests are focused on giving fledgling writers that extra push to improve and grow (as opposed to some other contests, which can be a bit… unethical).  Anyway, a huge thanks to both Whitney and Brenda for this opportunity!!


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13 thoughts on “The “Why” Behind the Words

  1. Inventor chick and predatory forest sound like pretty good reasons to me! If I were stuck in a predatory forest, I think I’d want someone like her by my side. 🙂 Good luck with this story!!!

  2. Susan J. Bickford

    I love your observation that “the reader closes the loop the writer initiates.” Well said. There’s nothing like sharing your story with someone! Good luck in Pitch Wars!

    • Thanks! And good luck to you as well!

      My favorite way I ever heard the relationship between readers and writers described – which of course, I couldn’t steal, especially ’cause I can’t remember who said it 😥 – was that writing is like telepathy, useless unless there’s someone on the receiving end. As an SFF person, I always thought that was soooo cool.

  3. aellepatel

    Your story sounds seriously bad-ass. I can’t even. I WANT TO READ IT.

    And also, yes: Writing…why do we like it? It’s like running. Running sucks, but after you’re finished, you feel weirdly good. I can’t describe it. I’ll have to read The Midnight Disease!

    Good luck in Pitch Wars! 🙂

    • Thanks! I gotta say, your novel looks awesome too, as I am particularly fond of post-apocalyptic stuff and your “origin story” resonates pretty strongly with mine. Books were waaay more interesting than school, or most people…

      I love that “writing is like running” – especially because it captures how people who don’t do it totally don’t get the pleasurable aspect. Like, I don’t get running, because I don’t like to run AT ALL! Seems like some sort of torture to me, but runners obviously like it…

      • aellepatel

        Thanks! 🙂 And yes. I hear people like the feel after having ran versus during the act of running — but I wouldn’t know. I HATE running, too! Lol.

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