If you presume to love something,
you must love the process of it much more than you love the finished product.
~ John Irving
Right now I’m not entirely sure I love the fiction-writing process. As I revise this young adult novel, I’m starting to question whether I have any business trying to get published. I received some feedback on another manuscript that has me questioning my talent, and today I’m more wobbly than I’ve been in some time.
So. The bad news is I’m scared and exhausted and wishing someone could cut out this obsessive writer part of me so I’d never have to feel this way again.
The good news? My experience tells me that this ugly fog will eventually lift and then fade to a very faint memory. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I might not always love the process, but I trust it.
I am revising. Again.
(John Irving once said, “Half my life is an act of revision,” and Tracy Abell says, “Amen to that.”) My critique group The Writing Roosters gave me feedback on my middle-grade novel, and I began revising accordingly because they’re pretty wise and much of what they said resonated with me.
So far so good.
Then I got a read from my writer nephew who also had a handful of very wise insights. And yesterday I spent hours reworking one earlier scene over and over again until I’d finally gotten it right. I congratulated myself and moved on, only to realize that the subtle changes I’d made in that one scene have to be reflected in later scenes.
Ah, the curse of a tightly woven story.
Whenever I tug on one thread, there are repercussions throughout, and one of these days I hope to remember that. In the meanwhile, I’ll get back to these seemingly never-ending layers of revision and keep passing the open windows.
John Irving wrote in the opening to Trying to Save Piggy Sneed,
“Half my life is an act of revision.”
Ain’t that the truth.
I share Mr. Irving’s love of revision. I enjoy blue ink on paper, deleting the fat and plumping up the skinny parts. I love drilling down to find the essence of what I want to convey.
Right now I’m revising the first several chapters of my YA. Again. I recently received stellar editorial input on my opening pages that has allowed a minor miracle: I am reading the pages with new eyes. I’ve already worked and worked and worked some more on those chapters, yet this editor’s input changed my perception of what was there on the page. It’s as if her reaction to what she read is forcing me to “defend” each and every word, every motivation. I’m no longer reading the pages with the mindset of someone who knows the entire story and all the backstory, but as a brand new reader! I didn’t think it was possible to read stuff I’d already read gazillions of times with fresh eyes, but it is. It really is.
Wow. Amazing stuff. Yet I’m alternating between thinking, “This is so cool that I have this new heightened awareness!” and “What is wrong with me that it’s taken so long to achieve this awareness that any writer worth her laser printer should already have?!”
So, in an effort to be kinder to myself, I’m focusing on this quote from Ernest Hemingway:
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Take that, nasty voice! I will prevail.