The Fire is Burning
The other day, I was lamenting to my wife that no one ever asks me about my writing. No one asks what I’m working on or what projects I have in the future. What are my goals? What do I like most or least about writing? She had a very good explanation…
“You don’t talk about it, ever.”
She was right. So why don’t I? I have a couple theories.
One, it is really outside my comfort zone to begin conversations talking about me. I’m an introvert, plain and simple. Being open about myself is something I am not wired for. Second, there is the something called Imposter Syndrome. You may not have heard of it before, but chances are you have felt it. Imposter Syndrome, simply put, is feeling like one day someone is going to realize that you have no business doing what you are doing. You’re a fraud, a trickster, leading people to believe that you are something that you are not.
For me? It’s being a good writer. If I talk about my writing more, will people figure out I’m a hack?
The sad thing is, it can be crippling, absolutely crippling. It sucks the energy right out of you, telling you that you’ll never be as good as the greats. No one will care. You look at your writing and think “Why bother?”
The truth is, Imposter Syndrome, at least from my own experience and research, is incredibly common among new writers…
And among award-winning, New York Times best-selling authors.
I’ve been contemplating dedicating an entire post to it, which I think I will do in the near future. If it helps anyone who reads it, it’ll be worth it, even if that one person is me.
Back to the point.
The other day at work, a co-worker and good friend of mine, asked me how my writing was going. I answered and thought nothing of it until I realized how it made me feel. It felt so good to tell someone how it is going. It felt like I was finally able to talk about a part of my life I had kept secret, for utterly backward reasons.
I mentioned in a previous post that I would likely be ceasing the updates on my projects, possibly until something monumental happened. That was the imposter talking. If you don’t mind, I’m going to tell him to shut the hell up for a moment.
It is November, and for those keeping track, it is NaNoWriMo month. The month to crank out a 50,000-word novel. I did it last year and it was a great learning experience. I plan to do it again in the future. I’m not doing it this year. The reason? I am actually still working on the same novel.
Let’s back up. In April I mentioned that I started working with a professional editor (note she only edits my work and not my blog, so anything you find here is on me). I had sent her the “completed” first draft of Automata; A History. The air quotes will be explained in a moment.
What I had hoped was she would read it and say “This is the best thing I have ever read. Can I get your autograph, maybe s signed copy of your book which I am sure will be a best-seller?”
What I got was, “Yeah, call me, we need to talk.”
Another quick tangent. I like woodworking and from time to time I like to make something with my own two hands. I don’t make full chest of drawers or anything, but little things and it is satisfying. The simple procedure is cut the wood, attach the wood, sand the wood, stain the wood, and finish/seal the wood.
There is this misconception with writing that I had, and from my research, is common among writers. It is that the great authors sit down, spit out an award-winning novel, then go about their business. Obviously, this is far from the truth. Putting words to paper is just the first step. The editing and revision stages is what adds the meat to the bones, what refines the wood from roughly hewn to glass smooth.
You can’t use a chainsaw and expect to make fine furniture.
My editor had many… many thoughts on the story. It had a good base but lacked in many areas. I won’t mention where or how, but after time digesting what she said, I agreed.
Thus my “completed” first draft wasn’t even close to complete.
For close to a year, I put the project on hold and worked on others, mostly short stories and the Snowman graphic novel, which for those wondering, I am very close to finally finishing that first draft. But every now and again I would open it up and add a little bit more. It was terribly slow and inefficient.
About a month ago I discovered Joanna Penn, an independent author located in the UK. I started following her as I felt like her business model was something I wanted to replicate. Being a writer is a business and one day I hope to be a full-time novelist. Joanna was able to do that, and she provides a lot of advice for others.
When it came to editing and revisions, she suggests something that completely changed my approach. See, before, I would just re-read my work on my tablet (where I do the vast majority of my writing). It was daunting, it was difficult to go back and forth to different points in the story. She suggests that changing the format of how you read your story helps you see it differently and makes personal editing and revisions more efficient. When in doubt, print it out.
So, I tried it.
At the end of NaNoWriMo 2018, Automata was 35,618 words. After I had done some additional writing over the year, I was closer to 41,000 words. Still chump change in my mind.
I nearly killed my little printer with 136 pages of text. After three-hole punching and tossing them in a binder, I was ready to start in earnest.
And something interesting happened.
Editing wasn’t a drag on my soul, it wasn’t focusing on my failed attempts at writing. No, holding the printed pages made me feel like I was closer than ever before to being able to see my name on a finished novel.
The fire was lit and I attacked the pages with a fury. In fact, yesterday and Thursday were the first days in a while I actually didn’t work on the story and it felt... weird. I didn’t like it one bit.
For simplicity’s sake, the story is split into three parts. As of this post, I have gone through editing part one and in the middle of typing the revisions. The story is hovering at 42,000 words. I try not to worry about the final word count just yet, as I have added a considerable amount to the story, and removed just as much. It’s fine, that stuff was great for building the story, but not needed anymore. Think of it as the scaffolding on a construction project. Vital, but unneeded in the end product.
The goal is for the finished book is to be roughly 60,000 words and to be ready by this time next year. I know, a long time, but after finishing part one, then I start over again with two and three. When that is done, I give it to my editor and the process starts all over again. And again, until there is nothing more to do.
I had hoped to get another short story out before Halloween, but alas it wasn’t so. Hopefully soon. As they say, there is nothing like a spooky short story to get everyone in the spirit of Thanksgiving.
As always, stay tuned for more updates! There may even be a Facebook page in the near future too so watch for that!