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Friday, August 8, 2008

Very Random Thought

I was meandering through blog links and found this one: Write Stuff. And her post about finishing her first book.

I read the post, smiled, and tried to drum up the appropriate enthusiasim for encouraging another talented human being. And I admit I'm lacking.... big time lacking.... in the enthusiasim department.

A finished novel is a wonderful thing. But those few hundred pages represent, to me at the moment, a mountain of edits. Months of scouring off unnecassary words, fighting to get the nuance and timing just right, struggling to get every necassary detail in with the fewest words possible.

I have 3.9 finished novels. And ZERO polished novels that are ready to go out to an agent. Sometimes I really despair at getting ONE polished novel finished. I say that a lot, especially when I'm stuck in the middle of serious rewrites. And I worry that the passion I had for writing when I finished my first novel is gone before I really ever went anywhere.

I love writing. I love spending hours with characters I know better than I know my neighbors. But I don't love editing. I do not thrive on the possibilities of another draft, another round of rewrites, of deleting 10,000 words because they aren't working and starting fresh. Part of me *hates* admitting that I didn't write it well enough the first time. Another part of me is simply impatient, thinking that by the third draft I should have smoothed all the wrinkles in the plot. Surely by now I've learned my lesson and can get it right!

Within my critique group this self-doubt is called Isuckitis, and the patented cure is a cookie. When cookies fail we try large doses of fudge brownies. And when even fudge brownies can't make you love editing we give each other a blank screen and permission to work on anything but our edits.

I have no idea how professional writers do this. I know a lady in the UK who can tap out a perfectly acceptable play in a week and go from first draft to published and earning royalties in under three months.

I know other people who will think long and hard about a short story, write it once, and send it off for publication without ever worrying about a rejection slip.

I'm not there yet. I'm not a literary expert. I don't have the confidence yet. I haven't got sight of the light at the end of the tunnel yet. Right now I'm still slogging forward, hoping that somewhere out there some agent and editor are just waiting, fingers crossed, for me to send them my unique view of the world. I'm scared of getting it wrong and hoping I get it right. No longer a young writer with stars in her eyes nor yet the hardened veteran with a glint of steel reflected where stars once were. I'm somewhere in between, stuck in the refiners fire for writers.

And so I gird up my loins, fresh courage take. I grab the hammer of logic and a long spear to skewer overwriting and try, try, again.


  1. And again, and again, and again.

    I have less completed novels than you. I have less edited chapters than you.

    But I HAVE braved the market and polished a few shorts to submit - and the elation of sending something off, knowing you've done your best and shaved every possible bit of flab, correct every plot flaw... It's heady. It's heady enough that my perfectionism is beaten back, and even though I /know/ it could still be /better/, I know that right now, it is my best.

    The trick is remembering - and coping with the fact - that my best gets better.

    I go back to things that I thought were edited within an inch of their life that I wrote in April, and now, over 50,000 words of stories later, I find I can shave a bit more flab, trim a few more words... And my best gets better.

    You don't have to write perfectly to be published. You don't even have to edit perfectly. You just have to have a story that has enough heart to capture the attention of an agent.

    And as we all know, /that/ is as easy as falling off a log :o)

    *hugs* and *cookies*


  2. Yes, I am going to polish my short story and kick it out there. I really, really, really am going to do that.... as soon as I have it editied beyond all hope of repair :o) And as soon as I figure out who to submit the stupid thing too. :( I'm not very familiar with the magazine market.

  3. Cookies solve everything. :)
    *offers an editing-with-speed cookie*

    hehe. The first short I published looked horrific to me... When it actually got accepted by a mag, I was overjoyed to tears. That goes to show how amazing CC is. That piece got about 7 crits, and I used pretty much all of them while polishing.
    You're not alone in editing. Take the advice that your CC buddies give you. It's worth it. lol.

  4. I need to get it to the point where someone's entire crit is not them laughing hysterically!

    Well, okay, they can laugh at Horace. With the sci-fi short I want them to send a lynch mob after me so they can get the rest of the story :o)

  5. I feel your pain!! I have a different disorder paired with Isuckitis it seems, extreme, unadulterated procrastination. I can't finish ANYTHING I start. Plus, when I start something, it's either go all the way, big picture, or nothing at all. No short stories here. But it seems like ambition is getting in the way of letting the ideas really flow... and it sucks!

    Either way, good post on your part.

  6. Isuckitis! What a funny term. And so clever and appropriate. It's nice to know there's a name to put to it!

  7. Listen, if you write your fiction the way you wrote the second to last paragraph of this blog post, I find it hard to believe your case of Isuckitis is little more than self-diagnosed. You wrote with vivid imagery, and you have a compelling voice. I'm thinking you should be submitting if your fiction is written the same way. Sometimes you just have to kick that baby out into the world. Tough love it and get it out there.

  8. *cries at the thought of kicking her baby out*

    You're very sweet, Joan, but I know I still have work to do. I'm getting there, but I'm not there yet. Notice that out of a blog post with 10 paragraphs 1 was eloquent. 10% is not a passing grade.

    But, keep watching, I have plans. I am getting a short story cleaned up and kicked out by months end. You can hold me to that. :o)