Sunday, March 20, 2011

Revision Angst

It took me six months to write the first draft of my novel.

Now, three months into the revision process, I feel like I'm going nowhere.

I'm trying to go through the story in order, hoping it'll feel less overwhelming that way.  I'm on page 64...of 309.

Yeah.  So much for that.

There are some reasons for my slowness, besides just the general ickiness of the revision process for me.  Between traveling and Sex Week, February was kind of a wash for me.  And I just started a new job (at the beginning of last week, actually), which meant that for several weeks before that, my mornings--which I had normally been spending on writing stuff--had been spent doing fun stuff like getting those damn dental appointments out of the way.  (On a side note: getting crowns--not fun!)  My new job requires me to get in by 7:30.  The good news is that I'm usually out by 4:00.  The bad news is that I have to be awake, showered, dressed, and out the door by the time I was previously stumbling out of bed.  Daylight Savings Time also hit this week, which means that I was actually getting up two hours earlier than I was used to.  The rapid schedule change gave me an on-and-off headache that lasted up until yesterday.  As such, I spent most of my non-work hours last week...well, sleeping.  I haven't reoriented myself to write at night yet.

I know.  Excuses excuses.

But I need to try to look on the bright side.  The two complete read-throughs I've received so far have really helped me see where I need to go and what I need to do.  I think I have a good sense of the characters and the direction of the story now.  And the stuff I've revised and workshopped thus far has been getting really good feedback, so I think I'm going in the right direction.

Still, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed, knowing I'm only a fifth of the way into the book and that the scenes that are likely to be hardest to revise are yet in front of me.

About a year and a half ago, I decided to stop treating my fiction writing as a hobby and start treating it like a career.  After years of writing, reading, and, more recently, blog-stalking reading some of the online wisdom of my favorite authors, I realized that the only one keeping me from pursuing a writing career...was me.  I could make all the excuses in the world: I don't have time to write, I'm not good enough, it's not a "real" career, you'll never make money that way, etc.  A lot of it was fear talking.  Well, fear and all those sad people I've met in my life who don't believe in dreams.  (And unfortunately, there are a lot of them out there.  I'd say, in my ever-so-cynical realistic worldview, the vast majority of people don't believe in dreams by middle adulthood.  And many of them, despairing their own disillusionment, like nothing more than killing other people's dreams.)  But I decided to say, "Fuck it all!" and not be a quitter.  It may never happen for me.  But at least I won't wonder, "What if?"

That said, it's hard to channel the Pollyannish optimism I need when, three months into my revisions, I feel like I'm getting nowhere.  The worst of it is that I haven't even gotten to the hard part of the process!  Forget revision, which is a pain in the ass for me, but still very much within my own personal control.  Soon enough, I'll be sending this poor little novel that I've worked so hard on out into the world.  I'll be writing query letters and synopses and flooding the post office with self-addressed, stamped envelopes.  And I know what'll come after that: rejection.  I got plenty of them even when I was treating writing as more of a hobby than a career.  What I will likely get in the future will make the angst I felt then look like a day at Disney World in comparison.

I'm not being pessimistic.  I'm trying to be realistic, to brace myself for the inevitable.  Sure, I'd love to be one of those authors who gets multi-million dollar, multi-book deals on their first sales, but I'm a nobody from nowhere, and I don't have that kind of luck. 

You see, this can-do, fuck-it-all attitude of mine is a relatively new thing for me.  Most of my life, my attitude has been more like, "When the going gets tough, give up."  I'd like to think the new worldview is a sign of maturity and personal growth.  Of course, it also hasn't been tested much yet, and old habits die hard.

I believe I can do this.  It will take time.  It will also take patience and a thick skin--neither of which are personal strengths.

I believe I can do this.  But I have to keep going.  So tonight, having whined myself out, I'll go to bed at a reasonable hour, wake up all refreshed, and go to work in the morning.  Then, when I come home, I'll put in a couple of hours of revising time before dinner.

I believe I can do this.  I just can't let my doubts get in the way anymore.

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