Last Friday I sent BIRD BRAIN to the four generous souls who
offered to read and critique my manuscript.
It’s much, much too soon to expect responses, but that hasn’t stopped
my mind from turning into a writhing nest of worries and fears.
AGNES by Tony Cochran
Maybe I’ll just get it over with and go put underpants on my feet.
I’m ready to wade back in there
and begin reshaping BIRD BRAIN’s opening chapters.
And then complete another (final?) round of revisions.
I’m equal parts anticipation and dread.
Image from morguefile.com
Cue whatever music it is I need to hear right now . . .
I’m trying not to panic about all this,
but as I work on BIRD BRAIN,
I keep going back and adding bits and pieces of characterization.
Stuff I just recently discovered about the characters.
I’ve been working on this project off and on
(with lots of OFF), since April of 2008.
You’d think by now I’d know the characters inside and out.
What’s it like for the rest of you?
Do you continue to get glimmers of understanding as you write?
Or do you figure out all the basic, most important stuff beforehand?
Or, like me, have you ever thought you knew all the basic, most important stuff
only to discover you did not really know those characters?
As I said, trying not to panic . . .
I was hearing that nasty voice in my head today
as I worked on a project long dormant.
It tied me up in knots.
Filled me with self-loathing and doubt.
I pushed past it and met the small goal I’d set.
Then I watched one of my favorite movies about writers and writing:
I’m feeling much better.
I heard back from Claudia yesterday on the two chapters I sent last week.
She had much good to say about the stuff that worked,
and offered a couple excellent points about places I needed to lay a little groundwork.
She also had some thoughts on how to handle a certain plot point.
I’m mulling over her suggestion, taking notes in my trusty notebook as I unravel my thoughts.
So far I’m thinking I need/want to go with my initial idea for this story line
but am mindful that part of me might be rebelling against outside influence.
The thing is, Claudia has had lots and lots of good ideas during this revision process.
I’ll have an idea and she’ll tweak it just a tiny bit to make it an even better idea.
I’m thrilled that my story is so much stronger than before
but I’ve also had a few insecure moments in which I wonder if the improvements are because of her or me.
I’ve never worked one-on-one before to revise an entire manuscript
and am wondering if anyone else has experienced any of these feelings.
Have you ever worried your story is better only because of someone’s input?
Or have I just gone out and invented a whole new brand of writerly neurosis?
What is it about writing stories that renders us
(and by us, I mean, me) clueless?
I’m revising a manuscript I used to think was pretty damned solid
but with the help of my mentor, I’m realizing I’d hit many wrong notes.
The opening chapter is so much better now
which makes me very happy
but also makes me wonder
what the hell was I thinking before?
How could I miss the obvious?
I felt a bit shame-spirally last night as I contemplated my cluelessness
but am now trying to focus on feeling grateful for a stronger manuscript,
and am reminding myself I will carry this awareness to later projects.
I won’t get fooled again.
I’m supposed to be revising right now.
I was, up until two minutes ago
when I tiptoed away from my pages.
The thing is,
the whole project seems pretty stinky right now.
I’m not sure if I should
(A) call it a night before I do more damage or
(B) put a clothes pin on my nose and keep at it.
Maybe I will
(C) crack open a cold beer and ponder the situation.
I’ve spent much of today trying to decide
whether I need to halt the agent search via
my middle-grade novel
in order to give the manuscript a complete overhaul.
Or maybe just a partial overhaul.
More of a lube and tune-up.
But the way my brain keeps twisting
as I struggle with the question
makes me feel I’m about as qualified
to fix this book as work on a car.
Not a good feeling.
(Couldn’t find photographer credit)
I’m starting to understand why some writers
send money, chocolate, etc. with their submissions.
Including an owl pellet is probably a really bad idea, though.
When a project first goes out into the world,
it’s easy for me to focus on other work.
I’m still satisfied with the outgoing project’s polish,
and proud of the accomplishment.
I don’t need to think about that project anymore.
Up to a point, that is.
My project has not yet yielded the desired results
which means The Doubts have descended upon me.
Pitched a tent in my head
and settled in to whisper crazy, non-helpful stuff.
For the sake of my sanity, I needed to shift that energy.
Today I made a slight change in that project’s format.
It only took about an hour and just like that,
I feel so much better.
Less like a campground for negative, whispered voices.
Once again I’m proud to have created that book.
Which means it’s time for me to get back to my other work.