The Revenge of the Words

I’ve now written six novels. So far, Nowhere Wild is the only one of those six that I’ve even gotten close to attempting to sell, and it took about twenty full edits of that one before I met with any success. And next week, I start another full edit of it (this time with the help of my editor), to fix some major plot issues.

A couple of weeks ago, I got some feedback from my beta readers on one of my other books. It wasn’t pretty. I had a lot more work to do on it than I thought. I had been hoping for a quick, line-edit sort of edit, but parts of it needed a full rewrite. I wasn’t mentally prepared for that, and it sent me into a spiral of doubting my writing and doubting this whole author as a profession thing. The experience was eerily similar to the shock I got while trying to sell the initial version of Nowhere Wild which was about 60000 words longer than it should have been. I found that out at my first PNWA convention, and I didn’t take it too well then, either.

I spent part of last week transcribing the reviewer’s notes into the manuscript, and cleaning up the quick fixes. I could only do a chapter or two at a time, not because there were a lot of notes, but because each note felt like a stake through my heart. Part of me wanted to disregard the worst of the notes. The devil on my shoulder told me this was only the opinion of one reader. He almost convinced me the story was good enough to try to sell. “Besides,” he said, “You’re bound to get bad reviews at some point in the future. You’ve got to learn to deal with them, and not take them so much to heart.”

But the angel on my other shoulder was calling the devil a lazy-assed idiot. If there are things that are wrong with the story, fix them. They’re just words. Fixing it is your job, you stupid writer. Do it! So it takes three weeks longer than you initially planned. Better to go through the pain now, than to have it somehow reach the printed stage, and then get crapped on by all the book reviewers out there.

It took about a week for the angel to win out. After I finished transcribing the notes, I set the book aside for a few days. At first, I didn’t want to do anything writing related. Then, slowly, the story started creeping back into my head, and I wanted to read it from the beginning, and to see if the adjustments weren’t as bad as they first seemed.

So yesterday, I dug back in, from the beginning. I’ve worked through the problems in the first twelve chapters. Fixing the issues there weren’t nearly as bad as I had first thought they would be. Sure, there may be problems I find in the latter half of the novel that dictate I go back to the beginning and fix other things. I may have to rewrite the beginning altogether. Who knows? But on a chapter by chapter basis, the problems didn’t seem so overwhelming. Sometimes writing is like that. Sometimes, changing a few words here, or a paragraph there solves a major problem in a subtle way.

At least that’s what I’m hoping. And that hope has allowed me to sit back down and get started on the work. Looking at the whole manuscript all at once was just too daunting. But one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter at a time, the work gets done.

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