I wrote my first novel when I was about twelve years old, and as a kid what I most remember about writing was the rush of constant ideas I was excited about. I wrote constantly, churning out novels and stories at a pretty prolific pace.

Part of this was a function of my ignorance and immaturity—everything seemed like a brilliant new idea to me because I wasn’t aware how much had already been done. And when I encountered things in other people’s writing, it was always a shocking new concept for me, which fueled my ability to just run off and bang out 50,000 words in a few weeks as I played with my new writing toy.

Another aspect of being immature and thus being able to write at a really fast clip was the fact that I wrote for myself. I didn’t bother revising; I finished an idea and moved on to the next. It was fun and exhilarating, but didn’t really result in material I could submit or sell. The more you work to polish, the more you work to produce writing that can actually interest people, the less fun it gets.

That Spark

Even today, my novels and stories always begin with that spark of excitement. It always seems like an idea no one else has ever had, or a technique no one else has ever tried. Usually, I’m wrong about that, because I’m kind of an idiot, but all that matters is that writing still begins in a molten moment of intense excitement for me.

That writing is fun. I can still tear through thousands of words in a few days, driven by excitement. But the closer your story gets to being really good, the slower things get, and the less fun it all becomes. That’s the strangest thing about writing: The inverse rule. The better your story gets the more like work writing becomes. If you’re lucky, you manage to balance this out—writing never quite becomes a chore, because you retain just enough excitement to keep pushing yourself along. But sometimes, usually when I get, say, the fourth round of revision notes back from an editor, you lose that balance and it just becomes work. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

Keeping yourself motivated when you’re way past that initial phase of intense joy is the piece of the puzzle most people struggle with. Writing is art, it’s creativity, and so it seems like it should always be exciting, and if you’re not excited you must be doing something wrong. But that’s not always the case, and navigating the Inverse Rule is the difference, often, between selling a novel and, you know, not selling a novel.

When it comes to dealing with the Inverse Rule, here’s a pro tip: Alcohol helps.


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