One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from W. Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
I love this quotation because it reminds me I’m in good company as I struggle along on my latest novel. It keeps me from taking myself too seriously. I like to think of old W.S.M. delivering this line with a twinkle in his eye, perhaps to some worrier like me who asked him to explain the unexplainable.
My friend, mystery writer Carolyn Hart, has forty-some novels published, yet she says the next one is always as difficult to write as the last. She can continue to do the hard work, book after book, because she knows that if she keeps showing up at the desk and putting in the time, eventually magic will happen. And that magic will let her finish the book.
Storytellers may operate under the illusion that they’re in control of their work, but sooner or later, if they immerse themselves deeply enough into the story and the characters, something else takes over. That’s the moment every fiction writer lives for. But first we have to believe in the magic and keep showing up at the desk, no matter how long it takes.