“I hate writing. I love having written.” – Dorothy Parker
Winter has been quite the emotional roller coaster for this scribe. My first novel, Straightville, U.S.A., hasn’t found a publishing home yet, and a recent pass from a promising editor had me ready to throw my laptop off the roof.
Meanwhile, after churning out 50,000 words of my second novel during November’s National Novel Writing Month, the manuscript was weak at best and not getting any stronger. Between allowing myself to step away from it a little too often or forcing myself to sit down and try to write something and getting nowhere, the project was not going well.
With the benefit of a little hindsight, I must now decree that NaNoWriMo is not something I’ll try again. Maybe it works for some people, but I don’t think you’re living in the healthier parts of yourself as a writer. It requires that attention be paid to word count at the expense of thorough research and planning. So even though you may wind up with 50K words on December 1, they’ll likely be junk. My writing eventually came to a halt, and I discovered I was telling the story of two protagonists that I really didn’t know very well.
So you can imagine my panic when, after informing me that we’d gotten another pass on Straightville, my agent, Steve, asked to see book #2 so he could provide some feedback. Yikes!
I immediately sent the first chapter to my primary reader, my dear friend Atish, who doesn’t attempt to spare my feelings when providing honest and constructive feedback. His response? Lukewarm; promising but not quite sizzling. After nearly an hour of discussion, I was on process overload and, quite frankly, needed to end the conversation. As difficult as it would be, I knew my only way out of the cave was to scrap my NaNoWriMo writing and, in essence, start from scratch. So that’s what I did, keeping the concept and the protagonists but completely reimagining their entire worlds.
I rewrote the first chapter and shared it with both Atish and Steve. This time, I hit the mark. When Steve said, “I think we have a winner,” I was finally ready to climb down from the roof, laptop fully in tact!
I’m now happy to report that book #2 is back on track and progressing nicely. Book #1 is still on the hunt for a publishing home, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the second one may hit shelves first. We’ve already gotten interest in the concept from at least one publisher…I just have to finish the damn thing! And hope isn’t lost on book #1. The feedback we’ve gotten on Straightville has been a mix of very positive thoughts coupled with enough constructive criticism to have me looking forward to writing a revision. For the moment, though, I’m staying immersed in the world of book #2. More to come.
A couple questions to any writers who may be reading this: Have you ever chucked a lengthy manuscript and started from scratch? And what do you do to pull yourself up when you begin feeling like the worst writer since, well, this lady?