Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Writing A Novel Hard?

Debut author, Teresa Burrell, is my guest today. She's an author with real life experience as a child advocate representing thousands of children in juvenile court and uses this knowledge to write action packed legal suspense. The end result is The Advocate.

Teresa talks about the need to love what you're doing, whatever your career choice. If you love it, how can it be hard?

When people find out I wrote a book, they inevitably ask me if it was hard. I don’t know exactly what “hard” means. I mean, it didn’t seem hard. I sat down with a computer and an idea and six months later I had written 150,000 words. I guess it can’t be too hard. Even the twelve rewrites that followed didn’t seem that hard. They were time consuming, but I wouldn’t say hard. My second book which is almost finished won’t require as many rewrites because I’ve learned a lot since the first one. So I guess in that respect, it was even easier than the first.

I taught school for many years and I know a lot of people who think that is hard. I knew a few teachers who hated what they were doing and I think it was “hard” for them to just get up in the morning. But to me it didn’t seem so bad either. Although, if I were to rank the two professions, teaching would definitely be ranked “harder” than writing. But is it harder, or do I just enjoy writing more than teaching?

I also practiced law for twelve years, not hard…getting through law school was hard, studying for the bar was hard, and passing the bar was hard…practicing, not so much. I was fortunate to find myself in an area of law, where although the content was unnerving, the work was very interesting. If you asked a professional football player if it’s hard playing football, I would expect very few would say it is difficult. The bottom line is they enjoy it and as a result it doesn’t seem “hard.”

I’ve enjoyed each profession I’ve had just a little more than the one preceding it. Teaching school was an incredible experience for me. I loved seeing the light bulb go on when a child figured something out. Practicing law, especially being in the courtroom, was like playing a giant board game. As long as you knew the rules, and played by them, you could maneuver your way through, winning some, losing some, but always enjoying the sport.

I also had an import business where I manufactured and sold tiki huts and bamboo bars. Until I figured out the whole “customs” thing, I thought it was hard. Once I figured it out, I realized it wasn’t hard, just plain frustrating whether you knew what you were doing or not.

And now writing, being published, and the whole marketing thing is a real head trip for me. It’s exhilarating. And I get to travel, which is probably what I would do for a living if I could find someone to pay me for it. So, now I get to write and travel. Who can ask for a better life? Consequently, writing doesn’t seem hard. So, if you really want to write…just write. If you don’t like to write, then don’t. Because if you expect to get in this business for the money I think you’ll find it really “hard.”

Writing a letter for me is hard. Writing blogs are hard. Writing a novel…not so hard.

Is writing “hard” for you?


Teresa Burrell has dedicated her life to helping children and their families in both the courtroom and the classroom. As an attorney in San Diego, Burrell maintained a private law practice for twelve years, which specialized in domestic, criminal, and civil cases. Her work in juvenile court focused on representing abused minors and juvenile delinquents. Burrell has received several awards and special recognition from the San Diego Bar Association for her countless hours of pro bono work with children and their families. Burrell has also enjoyed a satisfying career as a teacher. She has taught children of all ages with diverse backgrounds and special needs. After creating an after-school program that kept kids off the street, she received a community service award. Now in semi-retirement in California, Burrell continues to educate groups about social issues impacting children and write novels, many of which are inspired by actual legal cases.

The Advocate: For Sabre Orin Brown, life is good; she has it all...or would have, if only she could solve the mysterious disappearance of her brother. The search for her brother and her career as a Juvenile Court attorney collide when she defends a nine-year-old whose father will go to any length to obtain custody. Sabre suddenly finds herself immersed in a case with too many unanswered questions. Her quest for the truth takes her coast to coast and five years into the past. Confronted with mysterious clues and strange occurrences, Sabre is threatened by someone wanting to make her suffer the unbearable anguish of losing everything--including her life. As Sabre's passion to find the answers intensifies, she discovers a twisted history of desperation, deceit, and revenge. And she discovers how obscure and treacherous the truth can be.

Visit with Teresa:


~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome to Over Coffee, Teresa. Breakfast bar is fully stocked.

I think your article is nice, so I can't imagine writing blogs is hard, lol!

Yuu do make a great point though. Loving what you do will make difficult things seem less so, more of a challenge, rather than *hard*.

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Good morning,

Is writing hard? No. I don't think so. Writing something good seems almost impossible on some days but we keep at it in hopes that eventually something brilliant will pop on the page. But we love it all, don't we? Even the days where we write least we're doing something that we love.

I think the hardest part of being a writer is tearing yourself away from the keyboard so that you can spend a few minutes with family and friends.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I agree, Teresa. The writing is the easy part. It's all that follows that sometimes gets tough.

VA said...

Depends on whether or not I'm inspired that day. If I'm sitting down demanding to crank out so many words, then yeah, it's hard. Then there are the days when 8000 words later you realize maybe I should eat something, stretch, at least look at something besides a computer screen for fifteen minutes.

I think you've nailed it Teresa. Passion, regardless of what is it you are doing when it's there nothing's hard.

Kat Sheridan said...

Good morning, Teresa, and nice to meet you! Writing is easy, at least for me. Revisions and rewrites are not so easy. It's the parts of writing that are beyond my control that are hard--the waiting to hear back from contests or queries, the rejections...If I ever sell, I expect marketing will be hard for me as well. But the writing itself? Yes, there are days when the characters won't speak, the scenes won't come clear, when the ideas seem to be all dried up--but still, it's a joy, and never really "hard".

Author Guy said...

Writing a book, not so hard, since I only write when the words come.
Writing a blog, not so hard either, since most of the time I just wing it anyway, or write about what I'm doing right now anyway.

Designing, printing, and cutting up business cards, a bit harder.

Loading my car and schlepping everything I sell to fairs, very hard.

Writing a query letter, or a synopsis of my own work, utterly impossible.

6p00d8345682c169e2 said...

Theresa, refreshing perspective. If you love what you're doing, it isn't hard, though some aspects may be challenging. I choose to write or blog when I could be doing other things, but I make the time for these activities I care about. And as you say, on the second novel, there are fewer steps as you build up on the learning curve of the first book.

James Rafferty

Anonymous said...

Way too hard to give away for no advance or placement. Mileage varies.

Sheila Deeth said...

Writing a blog is definitely harder than writing a novel. Writing short stories is easy. But writing... The trouble is I'd much rather write than look for a job. And looking for a job is definitely hard.

Sun Singer said...

Finding publishers and promoting books seems much harder than writing. Perhaps that's because writing is fun, a natural thing for some of us to do, while selling is less natural for some of us. Dedication, though, makes the words and hours fly by.


Teresa M Burrell said...

Thank you all for your interesting responses. And thank you Sia for the opportunity to blog here on "Over Coffee." You have had some wonderful authors before me and I feel honored to be among them.

aries18 said...

Teresa, I enjoyed your perspective tremendously. Your passion comes through even in your blog. I believe following your passion makes anything easy. You're the proof of that.

Sia, you brought us another gem of an author. Thank you. Your blog is one of the web's best!

Helen Ginger said...

Gracious! You've done a lot.

Writing is not hard. It's a joy. The trial of getting published is difficult.

Straight From Hel

~Sia McKye~ said...

When writing is running smooth it's a joy, isn't it? When it isn't you figure out what's wrong and correct it and the story moves,it's cool. Challenge met and conquered. :-)

Guy, synopsis just takes practice. It's a challenge and it gets easier the more you do them. I still cringe, though.


Hi Sia,
Another great post and another wonderful guest.
I don't find writing hard, because I feel I express myself better in writing than I do speaking. Of course my fav way of expressing is in the visual arts. :)
Although, I do feel fearful at times when I'm writing something for others to really read, like a story. I don't know why, but I have some anxiety about it, like am I using the right words? am I repeating things? and organization of the story seems to be a little difficult. Should I write about this character first of that one? Maybe this will be easier the more I write?
Well, thanks for the great post and thank you Teresa for sharing with us.
take care,

KC Kelly said...

Thanks, Teresa - This was a great blog. I think you are right, the writing part is not hard. The hard part, for me at least, is having a full time job, family and then writing in between without taking away from any of those. Oh and having the patience to let time flow on by as I plot and write, all the while keeping an eye on the clock so I can get back to the job or to bed!
I'm going to keep at it though, its the best part of my day. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

KC, boy juggling life and writing is not easy. I know well how hard it is to have to be a full time mom, wife, employee, and follow your dream of writing. Oh, and I forgot, somewhere in there we have to sleep, lol!

Hang in there!

~Sia McKye~ said...


I think you do well in both *mediums* IMO. :-)

I think it's very normal to be "nervous" when others are going to read your work. Whether we do visual work or written work, it comes from the same place inside, doesn't it? And that makes it so much a part of us as the creators.

Keep up the good work.

Other Lisa said...

Er, well, put me in the minority - I find that writing is frequently hard. That doesn't mean I don't get a lot of satisfaction out of it and that I don't enjoy the process (most of the time), but I think it's hard.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Hey Lisa!

What I find hard, at times, is finding the right words to convey the scene or emotion I want in the best way. Or when I doing the freeflow writing and I have to go back and *show* rather than tell.

I'm looking forward to reading Rock Paper Tiger.

Teresa M Burrell said...

And sometimes it's hard to NOT write!

Teresa Burrell