I'd like to try something new this year. Every Monday I'm going to post a journal entry of a day in my writing life from the week before.
I've been blogging for a year and a half now, and I've been following blogs for much longer than that. While most blogs I follow have truly invaluable advice week in and week out, and some even get down to a personal level from time to time and make us feel like we're all connected and real, I don't think the latter is done nearly enough. This is a tough career choice, no matter where you are on the path.
We're told we have to be careful what we post for public view. Which is true. But I don't think that means we can't be thoroughly honest about the ups and downs of our journey. We just have to be selective.
So this is me, being honest and selective.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
I feel like total shit today. I've had some kind of stomach thing going on since yesterday, thought it was gone, but it came back with a vengeance. Only an hour after punching in at work (retail... the job that actually pays regularly) I had to leave. I never leave work early. Especially when it's a holiday and I get double wages for being there.
After a much-needed nap and some hot tea, I felt well enough to sit up and read. My first read of the year--MATCHED by Ally Condie. It's a 2010 book but I'm trying to catch up. This book is amazing so far. It makes me want to give up as a writer because I will never write anything as compelling as this. I only stopped reading to give my eyes a rest. As a writer, I can see the techniques the author used. I can see the foreshadowing, the subtle hints, the little teases that keep tugging me along, and even though it's clear to me, something I can possibly do myself if I practice enough, I still want to give up hope that I'll ever be able to master this craft in such an artistic way.
Sometimes--no, a lot of times--I feel overwhelmed by these things when writing a novel.
I wanted to give up on my WIP today. It's probably the best thing I've ever written, and I got so frustrated with myself... with myself! It was me, not the story. I'm the one who f*cked it up. I was so certain I knew where I was headed, so certain I was on the right path. I wasn't. I took something that should have gone one way and made it go the wrong way, and then the whole thing DERAILED.
And even though I knew this, I kept going. I kept writing, hoping it would get back on track somehow. It didn't, of course. I should know better than to ignore my gut.
I happened to catch one of my beta readers online. He's been reading this story, chapter by chapter, as I write it, and I could tell when I got to a certain point that his comments weren't as enthusiastic anymore. But, trooper that he is, he had faith in my writing ability and trusted that the story would be worth it in the end.
Until today. When he went on a two-page email diatribe about why it isn't working anymore, nearly two-hundred pages into it. Basically confirming everything that I already knew but was afraid to admit to myself because it would mean taking a step back and interrupting my flow.
I hate you for that. I love you for that.
Then I said, "Well, let me tell you what my original plans were, and you let me know if it sounds better than what I ended up writing." And within an hour, I had it figured out, just by talking about it. Just by refocusing on the original plot that somehow lost its way. Just be reaffirming why the hell I'm writing this story in the first place.
When I write, I have to let go of myself. I have to remember that the story is greater than the author, but it's up to me to do it justice.
I went through the piece, chapter by chapter, from the beginning, which isn't something I normally do until I've completed the first draft. But I knew something went majorly wrong along the way, so it would be a pointless waste of time and effort to continue the draft without fixing that error first. Minor errors can wait until the second draft. Major errors, like this, need immediate attention.
This was the first time I'd gone back and read my beginning chapters since I first wrote them nearly four weeks ago. And wow. They're f*cking brilliant (I'm allowed to think so). No wonder my beta had such high hopes for this. It was nice to see that I'm not a complete hack after all. As I continued, I was then able to pinpoint the exact places where I went wrong. And this told me that I'm not an amateur anymore. Three years ago, I could have looked at the same piece with the same ideas for improvement and would have done nothing more than blink expressionlessly. Clueless.
I just didn't have the experience behind me then that I do now. And when I can look back on my progress and see how I've improved, it returns my hope that I will keep getting better as time marches forward, as long as I keep writing and pushing myself through these difficult spots, not shrinking back. Not giving up.
I made a bunch of notes throughout my manuscript, wanting to get them all down before I forgot how to fix things. Then I deleted an entire scene and rewrote it from scratch. That felt wonderful. The difference was clear. I have whole chapters beyond this that also need complete rewrites, and it's not so overwhelming anymore. I know I can do it. One word at a time.
This time last month, this novel was not even a speck of an idea in my head yet. Now it's nearly a complete first draft and undergoing a major rewrite. To make it better. However long it takes, and no matter how many snags I encounter, I'm going to finish this. It deserves to be written. It deserves to be read.
It's not about me. At all. It's not about how frustrated I may get, or how quickly I can spill out a draft, or how I will or will not ever write as well as someone else. Just remember that, Lydia, and the story will take shape the way it should, in its own time.