Revisions, rewriting and doubting my own work

I’ve hit that point in the process of writing my first YA book where I’ve fallen out of love. Like any long term relationships it has ups and downs. This is normal. I checked in with Samantha Dunn to make sure. I didn’t trust myself. I would have asked Kimberely Griffiths Little to hold my hand through my neurotic moment, but she is very busy with her own revisions to her books that I didn’t want to bog her down with my shit.

I’ve had a disappointing week. I didn’t win the Pen Parentis Fellowship. I haven’t heard back from two different magazines about essays I submitted, I sent a short story out to Cricket and I check my mailbox every day for my SASE, and I ventured into WriteOncon and my stuff didn’t get the attention of any ninja agents, or much feedback in general and my ego is screaming HEY YOU! PAY ATTENTION TO ME! WHY AREN’T YOU NOTICING ME? PLEASE LOVE ME, I NEED YOU TO FALL IN LOVE WITH LIFE-LIKE!

Instead of accolades I’ve had to deal with the reality that writing is brutally hard often isolating work. This stack of paper represents the last four months of work. The pile depicts two binders containing drafts of LIFE-LIKE.As you can see, it’s four inches thick. And that doesn’t include all the paper I’ve recycled. At first this amount of writing felt like an accomplishment, however after putting my manuscript down for two weeks and letting an editor correct my grammatical errors I picked it up and read it through, as a book on the printed page, and the feelings of achievement were replaced with doubts. I looked at all those pages and the years of work they represent and thought, this stinks.

All I saw was a flaw. I always felt a lull in the writing at a certain point, I felt myself run out of steam, and as a reader with fresh eyes the lull screams at me, “Hey Holly, this sentence isn’t as good as the rest. It has to be. Get back to it.” Or in the ever brilliant words of Tod Goldberg, “This part of your story doesn’t suck. You must write it all on that level.” (he said that to me way back when in 2004 when I was working on a short story) I think it’s good that I can recognize weakness in my work but now I had to figure out how to make it better.

I paced, watched sad movies, then I watched action movies, did errands and even folded the laundry but nothing came to me. I read and reread the offending chapters. And I pinpointed where the changes would have to come in the book. I understood I must up the ante, increase tension and drama and that is difficult to write. I do know enough about my process to accept that I layer one thing(character development, plot, setting) in at a time per draft. I was happy to see the changes I made previously are consistent throughout the book. But they are too consistent. Who wants to read that?

My self-pity and the realization of how much work I have to do led me to self loathing.

And then I figured out one idea that can be turned into a scene that will change everything. Now I have to write it. And I have to write at least three to five chapters that carry that momentum forward before the emotional end. And I’m begging my imagination and my guides and God to help me do it now. I want all the ideas to flood in and I want my fingers to have difficulty keeping up with the story, but that isn’t happening.

That’s when doubt came along and sat next to my computer screen and stared at me. See him? He’s a crabby little bugger. Doubt is trying to convince me I can’t do it. I can’t fix the story or sell it. I think I’m going to have to show that crafty bugger he’s wrong. I’ve got to go. LIFE-LIKE is calling to me. We have unfinished business.

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6 thoughts on “Revisions, rewriting and doubting my own work

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  1. Take a deep breath and [at yourself on the back. You finished it! That’s a feat most people will never achieve.

    Its also the first step. Now, read through for spelling and grammar errors, then read through for consistency, then read through for characterization. Not all together, one subject each time.

  2. Holly:
    I’m not a writer, but when I have doubts about anything I try to do I recall Winston Churchill’s philosophy. “Never, never, never give up”. Be well.
    Roger

  3. I think writing is, by it’s very nature, a continual process of battling the self-doubt and overcoming the selt-loathing. But maybe it’s kind of like mountain climbing… you get to what you thought peak, and you can look back and see how far you’ve come. But then you turn around and there’s the actual peak, towering over you, and you know you have to work twice as hard to keep going. But you’ve made huge progress! Cling to that to give you the oomph to climb on.

    ICLW #7

  4. I was invited to join a writer’s group with an editor and a bunch of us enthusiastically insane writers. Poetry is easy for me. The process of writing a novel makes my head expand. I have two in the works. One is light humor, the other is a sci fi novel. I’d never have made it this far without the support of my group. Now, I am in the final stages of the humor. I’ve 53,000 words done and am aiming for the target that publishers like for a first novel, 75,000. It gets easier. I had to go back to fix things as I moved my plot along and changed my outline. It’s okay. I’ve found other mistakes that needed fixing or tightening. Just don’t give up. We crazy few need to hold hands and stick together when the words freeze. Hang in there.

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