On finishing my first complete draft of a novel-length story...
I finished RoS2 a week ago. It's hard to believe I stuck with it for four and a half years. It's even harder to believe that I finished it, and it came out semi-coherent. After two lengthy false starts, I finally hit my stride last year and started putting out one chapter every month or so. I learned that sometimes I have to restart a chapter five or ten times before I get the direction I'm looking for.
In that vein, this whole writing process has taught me half of what I know about writing. The other half I picked up from reading extensively since childhood and taking some classes. But I still laugh when I remember my first few chapters of the very first incarnation of RoS2 (the one that never made it to the internet). I struggled so much with adding actions to dialogue so that the scenes didn't become "talking head" exchanges. Even though I'd written little stories ever since I could spell, describing actions felt unnatural to me at first. It was like using a muscle I'd never used much before. With some exercise, however, writing got easier. This story was my training wheels.
In fact, that's exactly why my feelings toward this story are a complex tapestry of positive and negative emotions. I became the writer I am now while writing this story. My writing grew up as I did. And in the process, a Pandora's box of fears, passions, joys, and discoveries opened amid the nearly 60,000 words of the story.
I gave little pieces of myself to different characters, walking a mile in their shoes and then drawing on my own experience. I poured countless hours into writing and rewriting, finding that the majority of the words I wrote would never make the final cut, and learning that it was all part of the process. I learned that the little voice (it sounds like my own) in my head that tells me, "This is crap," over and over like a broken record is not a good judge of quality and can be put off, if not quite shut off. I learned that I can tell a story in a way other people will genuinely enjoy hearing. I learned how to finish a novel-length tale - which is a miracle, since perseverance is not my strongest character attribute. I learned that the truth is usually in what the characters don't say aloud.
Despite my accomplishment, I don't feel the great relief and satisfaction I thought I would. In fact, I'm even more nervous, because the next part requires me to face the demons of the writing process all over again. Editing involves questioning every word choice, every idea, every plotline (or lack thereof) - and it's very easy to take it personally. How exactly do you take your own edits personally? When you view the perceived flaws in the story as flaws in your own abilities, character, and good judgment. And then you begin to worry that anyone who reads the story will clearly see all the glaring personal defects you prefer to keep to yourself; after all, every literal and conceptual choice you made is a reflection of who you are on some level. And then...
Writing involves a lot of mind games. It's a constant battle to outsmart yourself. You're wired to make things difficult for yourself one way or another, but if you're going to push through and keep writing, you have to step around all the psychological blocks your mind constructs.
As I get ready to tackle my editing project, I am now more prepared than ever. Why? Because I've identified the lies and misdirection my mind has been feeding me, and when I hear them once again, I can quickly identify them and counter them with the truth. As somebody somewhere once said, "Knowledge is half the battle." As a smart ten-year-old once said, "And battling is the other half." I go to battle. Unsure what the terms of victory will entail, but knowing I have no other choice. I must fight for what I love: a story insisting to be told. And I fight knowing I'm not as moronic as I feel... most of the time.
|Posted 04-01-2018 at 03:22 PM by Vballspieler|