Maybe it’s part of my process that I take a lengthy hiatus from what I’m doing. I took a pretty long break as I was writing my novel, but after a few months I went back to it. I started off really strong with doing my first round of edits on my first draft…. and then I stopped. It wasn’t as bad as the writing break – I’d still do some editing here and there, but a few weeks ago I finally gave myself a proverbial kick in the pants to get working on it.
It’s fitting, then, that I finished writing my novel at 3 a.m., and last night/this morning, I finished doing the first round of edits at 3 a.m., as well.
Now I’m once again faced with the “What next?” question. I already planned to do another round of edits on this one as I go from the paper copy back to the computer, but then what? Hopefully I’ll be able to get myself to work at a pace that will allow me to be finished in time to participate in NaNoWriMo ’10 this year (or at least in a good place to work on both). But what then?
A few days ago, I visited Susquehanna – the university where I did my undergrad work. I met up with a few former professors who know I’ve been writing, and the topic of publication came up again. I told both of them that I wasn’t sure if I felt like publication was a place I wanted to go with this one. I’m just not sure if I like it that much. On the drive home, I was reflecting on those conversations. Each of them made very good points and gave me a lot to think about. One of the comments I keep coming back to was that it’s not always a bad thing to realize that not everything you write is going to be worthy of publication (and also that it’s far more common to be rejected). Sometimes it’s just good practice to help you get ready for something that is. In the back of my mind, I guess that’s something I’d considered, though in a slightly different way (I seem to recall blogging recently about how I know that not every blog post is a winner, but how I keep doing it anyway just to get the writing practice).
Maybe I’ll change my mind on this one eventually or come back to it later or something. Right now I still don’t know, and I think that’s okay. I worked hard, but it’s good because even if I don’t get publication, I still get something out of it. One of my biggest problems as a writer is that I don’t really have an eye for my own work. Because I know what I’m talking about and what I’m trying to say, everything always tends to make sense to me and I typically don’t see huge problems in my writing. I think that’s why I liked writing workshops so much – I really needed someone else to tell me where I was having trouble. When I got to the last page of the manuscript last night, I flipped back through it. 262 typed pages, and I couldn’t find one that didn’t have at least a few marks. Some pages were totally covered in purple ink. Other pages were covered in sticky notes. There were X’s over entire sections that I needed to move or wanted to get rid of. Despite the fact that I’d made pre-writing notes back in October, I still found myself thinking that I need more detail, especially where my characters are concerned. They’re not described very well, and I feel like if I had a better idea of what they should look like, etc., then maybe the reader would have an easier time understanding and imagining it. I feel like I need to draw some pictures, actually – to map out some locations. I need a clearer idea of who and where my characters are before I go into round 2.
So while I didn’t feel quite as accomplished and excited as I did when I finished writing the first draft, I still felt pretty good about having ideas and seeing that those marks weren’t just things like “oh, look, a typo.” I was actually able to find problems of substance, and so in that respect, it’s helped me to work on my self-editing objectivity. That’s probably a pretty important skill to have, no?
Still, I wish I were better at it. But like anything, it’s going to take practice. Luckily, I’ve made myself promise to finish another round of edits, and then I plan to get a reader or three. I think that even if I were [insert whichever best-selling author you want here], I’d still probably feel that having people reading it and giving me feedback is a crucial step, regardless of how good my self-editing skills are. In the mean time, here’s to working with no long-term breaks.