It still boggles my mind that it has been 10 years since I finished my first novel length work of fiction. I completed it while “competing” in NaNoWriMo of November 2009, wherein I discovered that this was the way of writing that truly worked for me.
If you’re unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it is a challenge writer’s partake in where each day they write a minimum of 1,667 words. By the end of the month of November the participant will have a novel length work of fiction that accumulates to approximately 50,000 words. When I did my research I had read (somewhere) that you’re not supposed to re-read what you’d written, nor were you supposed to think about where the story will go next. The writer is just supposed to sit down and write. It was these two guidelines that tapped into my own creative energy and fed my abilities.
Since I wrapped up that initial story, I have since written two sequels to it. The first was such a piece of garbage that I printed it out, bound it, and shoved it in a drawer, never to be seen again. I made the big mistake of trying to “undo the past” in the narrative. What it taught me is you can’t do that. But, what that ultimately achieved was to get the shit writing out so I could focus on the actual sequel that I subsequently wrote immediately after.
The only problem is, since 2009 I have been trying to edit the first one to no success. I begin with all the good intentions and I get sidetracked doing one thing or another. Or my inner-critic begins to beat myself up, and having zero self-esteem (when it comes to writing) I inevitably give in and stop. It has been this pattern for most of this time.
Though I am disappointed that it has taken so long, I am also glad. I for one have grown as a writer and just as a person. I have had mountains of emotional growth. One which I am able to take into my story. The other is, a lot of the main plot has transformed over the years from new ideas or techniques that I have learned during this time.
I took one class through “Writer’s Digest” that dramatically helped me. During which I learned a rookie mistake is having your main character alone, ruminating on the events of their life. It makes for a boring read. Readers want action and things to move the plot along. And while self-reflection is good character building it’s not very exciting to the overall story. So, since that was exactly what I had done to my MC, I introduced a character into the beginning who had not previously been there, but did pop up in the story later down the road. In doing that it created a ripple of effect of her having to be in the main plot, when originally she had not been. That caused me so much anxiety. How am I going to include her presence, when I had already written it without her. The simple answer is just re-write but that gives me pause because what if it “isn’t good enough?”
The part about editing, that I still suffer to this very second, is self-doubt. I question if my prose is any good, or if the words I am choosing are the right ones to convey my message, without them being repetitive and therefore annoying. In addition, I constantly second guess myself of “is this right?” or “would anyone even want to read this garbage?” Editing is such a hard line to walk. Because you have to be logical while still maintaining the bohemian spirit that fuels narrative. And “the artist” doesn’t like critiques.
To get my engine warmed up for the gauntlet I am about to run (again) I have gone through the entirety of my book and reviewed each chapter with Grammarly. As of last night I have completed that task, and now I have to work on prose and story structure. This is the moment where I stare down in the dark chasm wondering if I am making a big mistake.
Please, pray for me.