Warning: Reading this blog may get the tune, "Climb Every Mountain" the the Sound of Music in your brain.
Two weeks ago I finished the fourth major draft of Half-Truths. Writers are encouraged to celebrate each milestone and this one feels particularly significant to me. I read through the entire draft for the first time since starting it in January. And I am excited. It feels like a book!
But this draft did not happen without a lot of work as well as some writerly anxiety.
The week before I finished the draft, I was writing a brand new scene that would occur at the end of the book. I had a few sleepless nights when I was plagued with, "What if I can't write this scene well?" doubts. At night I worried that the magic wouldn't happen the next day; each day it happened! It seems somewhat silly now, but as I wrote to my friends Kathy Weichman and Rebecca Petruck, I was full of questions."What if my book is not as good as I think it is? What if I can't find an agent or publisher?"
Here are their wise responses:
Kathy wrote: "Carol, all those questions you ask yourself, I asked myself for decades. And my responses from editors made me question myself even more. The only question you really need to answer is "Why do I write?" If you can honestly say you write because you love it, you want to, or it satisfies that creative something inside you, then you keep doing it. If you answer "because I want to be published" or "I want a lucrative contract," then step away from the computer. There has to be a joy in the process or surviving this business will be brutal. It took me 39 years of submitting novels before I was offered a contract, but they are 39 years I would never trade. I enjoyed putting words on the page and crafting stories. I learned a lot about writing and about myself. I met fantastic authors, editors, teachers, and readers.
So stop questioning, stop worrying, and just write. And enjoy doing it.
Rebecca wrote: "This sounds like "what will they think" anxiety which...snap out of it! You CANNOT IN ANY WAY CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK. Maybe it will take a long time to find an agent. I have friends at it for YEARS with DIFFERENT manuscripts that are all good. It's a totally subjective crapshoot out there + market trends so you CANNOT KNOW OR PREDICT anything related to an agent or selling the MS. I know it's hard but let it go.
You won't write a new scene great the first time, especially an important one. When I wrote Diggy and Wayne leading the steers to the packer's truck the first time in Steering Toward Normal, a hugely important scene, I cried the whole time and did it in a scant 3 pages. It was terrible, but now the bones were down and I could go back when I was calmer to flesh it out (and cry some more). Point being: You won't get it right. Don't worry about it. Getting it right is for later.
I hope this helps. Go! Write, my friend. All will be well.
Kathy's and Rebecca's boosts got me through my last mad dash of writing. Then I edited out over 8,000 words and sent it to Rebecca who (as some of you know) has been enormously helpful through this process of shaping my story.
Now I'm celebrating. How?
#1 - NOT tweaking Half-Truths. (Well, only a little teeny tiny bit.)
#2 - Doing some things I've pushed into the corner. Clean my house. Finish my presentation for the SCBWI-Carolinas conference on "Using Your Own Diversity" with Linda Phillips. Get the next issue of Talking Story together with Joyce Hostetter. Work on a yet-to-be-announced writing workshop with Kathy and Joyce that is going to be awesome. Create a writing wiki for Alexander Christian Academy. Go shopping. Take in a movie. Make my husband take me polka dancing!
#3- Using John Bemis ideas from last weeks blog I may start brainstorming my next book which I hope will be a prequel to Half-Truths.
So join me in celebrating and remembering that books, like mountains, must be conquered one step at a time, and don't say I didn't warn you!