Time and Hard Work Really Pay Off

You could say that this is another one of my “encouraging” articles. As I reach the apex of my sequel novel, I’ve been reflecting lately on how it all seemed like it was never coming together until you reach the 89% mark. It’s kind of like the old saying, “You never see success in your path until you’ve crashed straight into it.” (I know of no old saying that reads thus, but it sounds like an old saying)

That being said, I know a lot of people struggle with this. Zach Evans, a piano YouTuber who now makes money off his videos, once said in a Ted Talk that self-motivation was the key to progress. His reasoning was that once individuals discover the fun in what they’re studying, this motivates them to practice more, and this in turn yields more progress, and then they take that progress and use it for more material to practice, and then they’re essentially stuck in an unending cycle of progression.

Writing usually starts thus: you watch a movie, see a picture, listen to a piece of music, or read a book. In any case, you are experiencing art. Once you do, you get an inspiration: it may seize you as something you need to do, and you need to do right now. Alternatively, it could be just a sneaking interest: you write on and off for a few days, but, in either case, voila–your story is born.

However, most don’t get beyond that initial stage. Inspiration is a powerful motivator, but it doesn’t last very long. One great 100-yard sprint does not make the marathon. Many of us can make that 100-yard sprint, especially when you’re inspired. However, few are fit to make the marathon. Those who do become author.

But say you’re not an author yet, or even a writer. You’ve got the first ten pages or so done in one burst (if you’re lucky) and, either by pure willpower or for the fun of writing, you go another ten pages. Maybe you watched a video or two on how to make good characters, and the story begins to beef up a little.

By this point, you’ve got a proper starting line. Most people just get bored at this time and just walk away, like a kid with trains suddenly abandons his play to watch television. You just square it as a “fun little exercise” or “a brain teaser” and move on with life, on the grounds that “I’ve been through that already”.

Or maybe you’re one of those people who crosses the line–the starting line, not the finish. At least at first. You stomach the first 10,000 words with an element of pride. This is what Zach Evans (remember him?) calls the “Launch Point”, meaning the point at which the student (or aspiring writer) either peters out and does something else or actually starts to make real progress. For music students, says Evans, this “launch point” which determines who stays and who leaves occurs about ninety days after they start lessons. For writers (in my estimation) the launch point is about 10,000 words deep.

But once you’ve got that 10,000 word mark under your belt, you tell everyone. You stick it on your resume, you phone your mom, you brag to your girlfriend or boyfriend or spouse, you share it on social media. You give yourself a hearty pat on the back and you treat yourself to a night at Golden Corral. Life seems good (and it is!).

But it’s not before long that demons of normality start to creep back in: What’s this? A book? Are you kidding me? You could never write something someone wants to read! It’s not even going to take off. You’ll never get it published. You don’t even have enough time. You’re a terrible writer anyway. Why don’t you take a look at this awesome YouTube video? After that, you can spend an hour scrolling through a Twitter feed! Wouldn’t you like that?

If you’re brave, you’ll deny it. You’ll tell the demons that you don’t want to look at YouTube videos or Twitter. You don’t want to waste your weekend in front of the TV watching the British Baking Show. But in reality, you do…and demons thrive on lies. They’ll soon confront you with the truth: you are a novice, your work is subpar, and you do want to quit.

But after you’re 10,000 words deep, you can no longer laugh off the idea of a full book. You’re still slightly starry-eyed. If you do quit at this part, you have a weak will. But if you persevere through this part, you probably do so unsuccessfully: you probably get through a thousand words a week if you’re lucky. After two weeks, it seems your word count hasn’t budged, and quitting seems like a far more viable option.

And so you reach the next stage: you become obsessed with your story–in a bad way. It becomes a kind of in-the-closet bogeyman or cruel taskmaster, always bugging you to give attention to it, spend time with it, write it, edit it. At home, you consciously swear off reading novels because it only reminds you of your story. At work, you avoid your coworkers because they’d ask you, “how’s the story going?”

On comes another fork in the road. Another pruning: those who have reached the 12,000 word mark either purposefully quit or hang on for dear life, writing no more than fifty words a day. Instead of taking their luck of swimming to land in the raging ocean, they bide their time on the ship, bedraggled and worn, holding out for a few more minutes and hoping–praying–the hull doesn’t break.

As you cower in fear and despondency, you ask yourself why you didn’t jump overboard with everyone else. The other unfortunate souls are doing that as well. Finally, your questions become answers and your uncertainty becomes resolve. Stumbling back through the deck, you lash the sails. You man the wheel. You start pumping water out of the hold. You start writing your story again once more.

Just like at the launch point, you start to see progress once again. The storm fades, the sun shines, and the wind takes your sail once more. You soon hit the 20,000 word mark. However, you feel less proud of yourself but more determined to get the book finished.

But you find that once you outmaneuvered the first storm, you just launched yourself into the middle of a war. Enemies pound you from all sides. This time, however, you keep your head: you’re too deep to turn back now. You use all the skills you’ve learned throughout your experience with writing, and you seek the help of masters to learn new ones.

But, inevitably, something has happened to your situation. No matter how hard you fight, no matter how dark the circumstances, the dawn refuses to come. You maneuver your ship (we’re still doing ship analogies here) under and over waves, attacking your opponents by surprise and destroying entire outposts. But the attacking fleet never grows any less. In fact, it seems to grow: they start anticipating your movements, developing their technology. You’re certain you’re making progress, but how much and at what speed?

And so the final pruning is at hand. Whoever manages to make it this far will either quit and never write again–or persevere and make writing a part of their character. If you quit at this point, it’s not because the writing has gotten harder. It’s because the story is no longer progressing from your point of view.

But very few quit at this time. The word count goes higher and higher, bit by bit: 30,000–40,000–50,000. With each step, you wonder how much progress you’re making, if at all. You know this much: the percentage swell of your story each day decreases per word you write. Editing’s not much better: it makes you feel like a moron. Since your word count is hardly increasing at all, you feel like you’re making even less progress than normal.

Suddenly, when things look their bleakest, the guns stop. You rub your ears and come above deck to see what’s happening. The enemy ships are sailing way, they’ve all but fled. All but one small ship waving the white flag of surrender. The ambassador begs to come aboard and you welcome him. The ambassador smiles and presses something into your hand, whispering into your ear the words “The End.” You look down and see that he’s given you a finished manuscript, thick and hefty. You’ve finished your book.

You think about the final stage: you kept going, even when the end was nowhere in sight. You kept going even though you couldn’t see the map. You kept going even though you weren’t sure that you were on the opposite track. Even though the going was tough. Even though no one believed in you. Even though you had to sacrifice hours of your time that you could have spent playing video games, watching movies, whatever.

Your time and hard work have paid off. A lot of young writers out there are in what Jerry Jenkins calls “the Marathon of the Middle” or the “war” in my analogy. The hardest part about it, in my experience, is that it feels like you’re running on a treadmill. You feel like you’re not making any progress whatsoever.


The point of this article is to tell you that your hard work and time are not wasted. If you persevere, it will pay off. I’ll bet you my front teeth on it. And every cent I’ve got in my wallet. Don’t quit. Keep going. Set a goal for yourself. Rekindle your flame and finish strong.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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