There's an interesting interview over at Writers Digest with writer Sue Grafton.
Of particular note is this:
What about this voice you talk about, the Shadow?
My problem is I can’t get out of my own way. Shadow knows how to write books. Ego does not. So when I’m trying to put together a book, Ego is the one saying, “I’ll do it, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.” And I’m going, “No you won’t. You don’t know what you’re doing.” Shadow is just that still, quiet voice in your soul that tells you if you’re on track or off track.
I find this compelling because it is so true. And, I think, it's the reason why so many newbie authors fail. Ego.
How many times have you heard that 'writing is easy; I could write one of those romance books, no problem'? How many know that's smirk-worthy? How many have half a dozen unfinished works? How many thought the idea was a good one at the time? I know I've got a bundle on unfinished books squirrelled away.
Ego, if you let it loose, will only get you so far. It's the quieter, more considered voice that takes you to the end; and it's the quiet voice that goes back to the beginning while ego is doing a smug happy dance, to edit. Ego is that excited part that can't wait to get to work on that sparkly, scathingly-brilliant new idea, while the quiet voice is considering characters, plot, scenes, descriptions... All that hard stuff.
I'm guilty of this every November. Come October 31, I'll have something vague and ill-formed in mind. In the morning, the empty page awaits and off I go, no matter what. Some years I've been fortunate enough to have a relatively well-formed main character. Most years, I just let the ego run wild - that lasts for a week, maybe two, when ego is just so over it and the hard work to get the word counts done starts.
At the end of the interview, Ms Grafton gives this advice to new authors:
My big gripe about newer writers is they’re not willing to put the time in. Somebody’ll write one book and they’re asking me who my agent and my editor are, and I’m thinking, Don’t you worry, sweetheart, you’re not any good yet. Give yourself time to get better. Writing is really hard to master. You learn by failing over and over, but a lot of people don’t care for that, thanks. I always wish new writers the greatest good fortune. It’s a helluva journey — I’ll tell you that.
Yep, I've still got the first book I wrote... somewhere dark so it can get therapy... and it will stay there with the second and third books for company.
Doing the work teaches us what works and what doesn't; only when the quiet voice is happy should it see the light of day.
Of course, sometimes that quiet voice is silent, asleep and unconcerned. That's my excuse an' I'm stickin' to it.