A couple of weeks ago, I was ready to give up on one of my novels. I’d felt it was finished about two months ago, after a year of painstakingly slow writing. After a bit more tinkering, I gave it to two of my biggest supporters (and trusted critiquers) to read. Their comments were devastating, suggesting big problems with the book structure.
Inside my head, a tiny voice said, “But it’s finished.”
I put the manuscript aside. I needed some time. Time to accept that it wasn’t finished after all. Time to grasp that changes would wrench apart the entire novel. Time to recognize that the reason I was so shaken by the comments of my readers was because, deep down inside, I knew they were right.
In the meantime, I tried to work on my next project. It was already partially outlined and researched, waiting for words to give it shape. The words didn’t flow. I didn’t know if I had the strength or energy to carry on. I questioned whether I even am a writer.
Finally, I turned to a journal that I’d begun just for that book. This may sound crazy, but it’s a space for me to dialogue with myself about the story. I write about the characters, the plot and, most importantly, the problems. I found the place in my manuscript where the confusions began and debated ideas with myself. I wrote questions. I wrote answers. I jotted down different scenarios. One day, when I had a few uninterrupted hours of quiet, I slowly worked out a plan. Hallelujah!
I still need to actually write the new parts for the novel. I’ll need thorough critiques when I’m finished. The revisions will continue. I’m not naïve enough to believe that there won’t be any more changes. But I will persevere, because that’s what writers do.