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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sparkle Abbey on Why Writing Is So Doggone Hard

by Sparkle Abbey

Why It’s So Doggone Hard

We have a confession. Writing is hard. Writing for publication? Even harder.

We always smile when people just assume we crank out our light-hearted mysteries with little to no effort. If you’re paying attention, you might even catch us giving each other “the look.” The look that says, “If they only knew.”

We just turned in book five in our Pampered Pets series, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, and you’d think it would get easier. But the reality is, it hasn’t. We write light, humorous cozy mysteries. The different between writing the type of book we write and heavy, dark, intense books is, well, just the tone. It still requires the same research, attention to craft, tight plotting, etc. as any other book. In fact, you know the old adage, “Dying is easy; comedy is hard.” We concur. Writing humor is hard.

The truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter what type of book you’re writing. Writing for publication, writing something you hope others will read, is hard. Much harder than you realize at first. Sort of like owning a dog.

At first, it’s just cute and fun.

As young writing pups, the images in our imagination easily turned into words on the blank page. We filled pages and pages with stories and characters that entertained us. Mostly because we didn’t know any better. In our hearts we were storytellers, and that’s what we were doing—telling our stories. Now we know the truth. Writing is hard. So you have to love it a lot in order to get to the next step.

Training is important if this is going to work out

We’ve each studied the craft of writing for more years then we care to admit; and we’re still learning. The more we learn, the more we realize what we don’t know. We find we must: continue to learn and grow, figure out what works and what doesn’t work, and learn from the experts and others in the business. Writing is very much like owning a dog; with good training you’re going to love it even more. And, by the way, it’s an ongoing training process – sit, stay, fetch. Repeat.

Training a puppy, or training your writing muse, requires stamina.

It takes talent to tell a good story, but it takes stamina to polish a good story into a great one. It’s that polishing process that makes the story shine. Just as you must stick with it when training a puppy, you don’t always get it right the first time. It takes time. It takes practice. The more you practice, the better you get. So you continue to refine and improve. Does it get a little easier? Sure. Which means it’s time to take it to the next level.

You’ve got to love it!

What makes it possible to hang in there for your puppy or your writing is that you love it. As writers we push on. Not just because we have a deadline, although a deadline certainly helps. As writers, we continue to pull word, after word, after word from our souls because, after all, we’re storytellers. We love that we get to entertain real readers with these fictional characters and these worlds we’ve created. We love to hear that we’ve created an escape for our readers for a subway ride or an afternoon on the beach.  

Writing is hard because it makes us vulnerable. Writing is hard because as writers we push to learn more in order to become better storytellers. Writing is hard because it takes time in addition to talent. The reality is that writing a good story is hard because takes work.

Our advice?

Sit - Write a lot. Enjoy telling your story.
Fetch - Hone your craft. Get advice. Continue to learn.
Stay - Stick with it. Don’t give up.
And play - Remember to love it!

Because if writing weren’t so doggone hard, it wouldn’t be so doggone rewarding.  (Much like owning a dog.)

Wishing all you writers out there the best with your writing!

Sparkle Abbey is the pseudonym of national best-selling mystery authors Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter. They are friends and neighbors as well as co-writers of the Pampered Pets Mystery Series set in Laguna Beach, California. The pen name was created by combining the names of their rescued pets - Sparkle (Mary Lee’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog). They reside in central Iowa, but if they could write anywhere, you would find them on the beach with their laptops and depending on the time of day either an iced tea or a margarita.

They  recently finished the fifth book in the Pampered Pets series, Fifty Shades of Greyhound, and continue to enjoy hearing from readers about the previous books: Desperate Housedogs, Get Fluffy, Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, and Yip/Tuck.
Twitter: @sparkleabbey

Next Up on Wednesday - Mystery Characters Help Real Animals in Need


  1. Such a great article and so playfully presented. thanks for sharing your wisdom. You obviously know a lot about writing...and dogs.

  2. thanks so much for the great advice! Going to visit their blog and facebook page now

  3. Thanks, Elaine. It is hard work, but we do have fun with it!

  4. Caren, thanks! Great to 'meet' you here. :-)

  5. What a great blog entry. And good advice for writers in any genre. Do you write in the same place at the same time? Do you participate in a writer's group or critique group?

  6. Hi v - We sometimes work in the same place but often write separately. We collaborate in kind of an usual way in that we take turns writing the books. So - Mary Lee writes the books that feature Caro, the pet therapist amateur sleuth - the odd-numbered books. And Anita, writes the books that feature, Melinda, the pet boutique owner, amateur sleuth - the even-numbered books. We share setting (Laguna Beach) and all the secondary characters.

  7. LOL - we meant to say "unusual" way. :-)

  8. Thanks for being here, ladies! You're always welcome.

  9. I love your comments comparing training a dog to writing! I have learned all those skills; Sit, Fetch and Stay!! I even get treats when I feel I've completed my job!!