Nicole Roder ~ I Need to Write

Nicole Roder

Nicole Roder

A couple nights ago, a friend asked me if I’d always known I wanted to be a writer. Well, I haven’t always wanted to. I mean, I’ve always written things. There was college, then graduate school, both with their requisite exercises in premature grandiose genius term papers. Plus, every job I’ve ever had involved writing in some way, whether it was treatment plans (social worker), issue reports (policy analyst), or star charts (mom). Okay, I guess not waitressing, unless you count dinner tickets. I penned a powerful loaded baked potato.

But to actually be a writer? As a job? I’d never thought of that. In fact, I still hadn’t thought of it when my friend asked me that question. Writing isn’t my job. It’s what I have to do. I need to write. I have thoughts and ideas swarming through my brain that must be shared! When I share them out loud, I forget things. I jumble my points and omit important facts. (Though I’m sure my family will tell you this hasn’t stopped me from trying.)

When I write it down, it makes sense. I sound smarter. Don’t believe me? Try arguing on the Internet. That can make anyone feel like an expert.

But expert or not, I have some strange affliction that causes my fingers to twitch until they clack across a keyboard. (Come on! I know you know what I’m talking about!) And about four years ago, I decided to relieve my itch with novel writing.

I’m supposed to say something about my process here. Well, I’m writing my third book now, and so far my process seems to involve several torturous but necessary steps:

  1. Come up with a fantastic premise that I’m sure will make a brilliant novel.
  2. Do months of research on my premise, develop characters, and brainstorm plot and setting.
  3. Start outlining my book and get stuck on the second or third bullet point.
  4. Realize that my original premise can’t possibly fit with the characters and story world I’ve created and pitch the whole thing.
  5. Drink lots of wine. Complain to my husband. Cry to my sister.
  6. Have a 2 AM epiphany and furiously write until I’ve gotten a new outline down on paper without a scrap of research.
  7. Begin writing my first draft, researching and developing characters as I go.
  8. At around the 30K word mark, realize a fatal flaw in the book and re-write the first third.
  9. Finish my first draft and finally breathe.
  10. Do lots, and lots, and lots of editing.

You’d think that just getting it down on paper would be enough to satisfy my craving. But I want more than that. I want people to read it, and I want to know what they think about it. I want recognition. (Remember the star charts? They’re not just for the kids.)

I’m now going through the brutal process of trying-to-get-my-book-published. As I’m sure anyone reading this blog knows too well, this comes with a lot of rejection. I could go on for another several pages about how I deal with that (and in fact I did!). But I’ll just say that you have to push forward.

You have to know that your writing is worth reading, and that someday someone will recognize it. Someday, you will be speaking with an editor, or a publisher, or a literary agent, who has fallen in love with your book. She will tell you all the emotions your characters brought forth in her. She’ll tell you the parts that made her cry, and the ones that made her laugh out loud. She’ll describe literary devices you used that you weren’t even aware of, and make you feel brilliant for using them. This will happen. It just takes time and a ton of liquor work.

I have had such a conversation. Very recently. I can’t say with whom yet, but check back with me in a few weeks. Until then, keep writing. Consider it your gift to yourself.

Nicole Roder