Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When the Writing Gets Tough…

by ANDREA MACK on MAY 29, 2009

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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Christina Farley 05.31.09 at 10:19 pm

Andrea, this is so true! I love your endurance and perserverance through it all. It’s tough and it’s not easy. But at the same time you’re not afraid of the hard questions that if you can answer them, will only make your books stronger. Wow.

I love your idea of the journal writing for the book. Maybe that first love that sparked the relationship with your story will be lit again. I’ve never thought to do that, but it’s a fabulous idea.

Hang in there and thanks for the encouragement.

Kate Fall 06.01.09 at 9:59 am

Oh, Andrea, I know exactly how you feel. But it sounds like you’re trusting and following your instincts. If only time was an unlimited well, I wouldn’t mind those huge story structure revisions so much.

I’m really proud of you for doing this!

Debbie 06.11.09 at 12:10 pm

Yay for you, Andrea! And keeping a book journal is a fantastic idea.

I groan re: revisions, too, and sometimes it gets really discouraging. Sometimes I put the mss aside for a long while to simmer while I work on other stuff, so I can get excited about it again.

I’ve recently started researching the writing habits of famous writers (and posting them on Inkygirl.com) and am astounded at how many revisions some of them do.

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