I’m now finding out how big a coward I really am. How long ago did I write that I was starting editing and rewrites on my first draft? Feels like months, but it’s probably only been about a week or two at most.
As of last night, I’ve done a grand total of three chapters. Yep, that’s all: three chapters. I finally started chapter four last night after procrastinating for a week. Every day for the past week I’ve sat down at trusty old laptop with the best of intentions: I’m going to start rewrites today. But somehow, every day, I’ve found something else that I’ve just had to do that prevents me from doing the necessary.
They’ve all been legitimate excuses, but every one of them could have been avoided by the simple expedient of not going online. Instead of just simply opening my Word program and getting to work, I’ll tell myself that I’ll just check my emails first. Before I know it, I’ve gone through three Blogcritic digests, answered a couple of letters, responded to a few comments, and three hours have whizzed by.
If it’s not email, it’s something else of course. I’ve recently moved my blog and am still trying to iron out the kinks in my site. As code and I are not the best of friends, this involves a lot of hit and miss work to make something reasonably presentable. Of course, there is also regular blog maintenance that has to be taken care of, updating links, adding new buttons, and renaming my archive. (When my archive was moved over from Blogger to the new site, all of the titles vanished, so I now have close to three hundred posts that have their first lines as titles.)
Under the title of putting the cart before the horse, closing the gate after the horse has escaped, or just generally doing things backwards, instead of working on the novel, I decided to start researching agents and publishers. Seeing as most agents are going to want to see a completed manuscript, and, if you’re lucky, even publishers may, at some time, want to read the entire novel, it was a real case of getting ahead of myself.
I justified it to myself by saying you’re going to have to do it some time, why not now? Anyway, shouldn’t you take a little time before starting to edit and rewrite? By walking away from a manuscript for a while, you’re supposed to be able to come back with a more objective eye.
I wonder what’s said about running away from a manuscript? Is that even more objective or is it cowardly? It’s not being afraid of the material being crap anymore. Having read over and edited the first three chapters now, I’ve managed to overcome that worry. I was able to read it, not recognize anything about myself in it, and actually enjoy what’s been written.
Up to this point, I seem to have accomplished my goal of writing a book that I enjoy. If that’s the case, then what is it that has me shying away from continuing on with the process of finishing the book? Is it fear of rejection, of criticism, or that no one will be interested in the story itself?
I’m pretty sure it’s none of those, although I could be wrong, but they don’t feel right. If those were my concerns, I think I would have been obsessing over every line and word of the draft I’ve read in order to make it letter-perfect. Not that I wasn’t meticulous in my editing and rewriting, but it was done out of a desire to improve the story for myself, not to impress someone.
There comes a point that no matter what I do with the editing, it will come down to whether the publisher or agent likes my idea and my style. If they don’t, there won’t be any amount of edits and rewrites that will change their minds.
So what does that leave? What happens when I finish this project, including my proposed second volume? What will I do then? What happens if this was the only novel in me and I can never think of anything else to write?
I’ve spent the past year in school, so to speak, writing on a daily basis, refining, and honing my skills just so I could write fiction. What if I don’t have any more stories in me? I don’t want these to be my first and last works of fiction. I want to keep enjoying the feeling of being a novelist, a creator of tales for others to read, enjoy, and perhaps learn a little from.
When I was younger I used to dream of being the next James Joyce, a great intellectual novelist. Thankfully, I outgrew that and decided to find my own voice. I like what that voice sounds like, and want to hear it and write with it for a long time.
So many times in my life, things have been taken away from me because of my health and my circumstances that I now fear that happening on a regular basis. Will my health worsen to the point that I’m no longer able to write? Will some external force take away this opportunity before I even get a chance to discover how much I’m truly capable of?
I guess that all sounds sort of silly huh? But I can’t help my thoughts. I can do my best to argue against them, but still they keep creeping up on me. Each of them on their own isn’t really enough to worry about, but when all of them start pressing in on me, they make me feel that once I’ve done this project there will be nothing left to do.
I try not to think about those things; inevitably, they come out and haunt me. Slowly but surely, I’m working my way through the process of actually finishing my final draft. Not only will it mark the successful completion of my first novel, hopefully it will see the conquering of some old fears.