Monday, January 7, 2013

Something I have learned as a writer

If Only We started out as a rough (VERY rough) idea in my head. I knew approximately where I wanted to go and some of the scenes that would take place. November 2011’s NaNoWriMo was a rocky road for that idea. I got somewhere, a place I had never been… 50,000 words…. It was amazing. And impressive that I managed to reach that goal.

Once I began to go through that now rough (VERY rough) draft, I realized how little I had gotten accomplished. It was messy. Oh boy, was it messy. Since I had a vague understanding of my characters and the plot, I kept writing the same scenes in different ways. It kept my word count going, but I was left with the task of filling in all the blanks. 2012’s revision process has been one-half revision and one-half writing. To be completely honest, it has been backbreaking at times to get through certain sections. There were some days I wanted to throw the words to the wind and go back in time to October 2011 and tell myself to actually prepare for November instead of dawdling around until the last minute.

As I look over all these many (oh so MANY) weeks of revising and writing, I can’t help but feel like I’m running on ice. I have spent a whole year attempting to finish this novel. A whole year. 365 days. Am I close to being done? The word I tell myself at this point to answer that question is “Hardly.” That word makes me depressed, and being depressed makes sitting down to write much harder. When writing becomes harder, you tend to convince yourself that your words suck. When you think your words suck, you wonder why you even bother.

Despite all those days of wanting to punch a wall or sob into a pillow, there is something that keeps me from giving up. Maybe it’s the fact that I am so determined not to fail. Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t not write. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m certifiably nuts. Whatever the case, I have come to a realization as a writer.

Here it is: One of the worst things a writer can do is over think the words. Yes, you want to write a good novel. But you can’t stress to the point of never finishing.

I have seen so many fellow writers struggle over the last couple years. A lot of us remain unpublished because we are wanting to share a perfect novel with the world. Even if you achieve perfection in a novel, you’re going to look back on it in a year and find a flaw. Is it worth holding on to a novel for a whole year to find that flaw before you publish it? In my opinion, it’s not. I have spent too much time anxious over If Only We. Imagining flaws that don’t exist just because I’m having a bad day or I’m comparing myself to someone else. The longer I worry about this one novel, the longer it will take for me to move on to a new one. And isn’t that what I want--to write another book? And another? And another?

Yes. Yes, it is.

I may not be completely finished with If Only We but I am not going to spend another year fixing it. It may not end up as perfect as my mind wants it to be but it will be something exceptional. Why? Because I wrote it. It’s mine. My story. My book. My novel.

And that is going to be a good feeling.

  Jessica Sankiewicz


  1. I've said it before and I'll say it again, you've managed to say everything I want to about this in a much better way than I ever could. I've been agonising over the MS I started last year at NaNo for the longest time. I'm gearing up to start another round of developmental edits which is completely necessary but thinking about it gives me the biggest bout of anxiety. Then I begin to do the self doubt thing where I worry about whether my words are just terrible and I'm one of those people who loves doing something but is simply terrible at it and nobody is willing to tell me. Then I go and read a bunch of reviews for other books and convince myself I'll never be able to write something someone else will enjoy. It's little wonder we get any writing done at all! Thank goodness for great blog friends who encourage me and lend their support when I'm being a downer. Like you said Jess, it's your story and you'll know when it's ready.

    1. I've had those moments of anxiety--especially since I haven't shared my words with too many people. Beta readers can sometimes be too nice, but I think most are honest about your story--and in a good way that helps you improve as a writer. I think once I see their kind and helpful words, I will feel better. I've read some of your work, Lan, and trust me you don't need to worry. You are a good writer. We will both be able to get over this roadblock and realize that the grass is greener on the other side... I just mixed up two cliches... oh well. Lol.

  2. "When writing becomes harder, you tend to convince yourself that your words suck. When you think your words suck, you wonder why you even bother." - Too true. That's what happened with my 2012 NaNo project. Like I mentioned before, I'm sure it was all in my head - there was probably nothing actually wrong with the story but the whole process was so frustrating and difficult that I was just being weird about it. I went through something similar with Blue Sky Days and I had this acquaintance who was interesting in my writing and every time I saw him he'd ask if it was done yet and I said 'no I'm still revising' and finally he said something like 'how many times can you revise it before you just let it go?' and I realized he was right. You could read it a million times and likely find something you want to change each time, but is it worth the time and agony when you KNOW the story is ready? I'm sure that day is coming soon for you, and I can't wait! :-)

    1. Sometimes it IS all in our head... unfortunately. That's why it's great to have a lot of great blogging and writing friends to cheer you on and give you advice along the way. It keeps you on track and helps you improve and stay positive. Your Blue Sky Days story--it's funny how somebody on the outside can say something to us and it just clicks and it motivates you in the right direction. :) Thanks sweetie!!

  3. Perfection, and agonizing over every word, is something I struggled with for years. It probably did keep me from writing at all for a few years. Fanfiction helped in one way with that, but it's still an ongoing struggle. The other day I kept staring at a blank Scrivener page, rewriting the same damn paragraph 20 times (no lie) because I didn't like the way it was coming out. I ended up giving up that night, because I was frustrating myself. Sometimes it's hard to get over that internal editor voice, but I keep trying to tell myself I have nothing to work with, if I don't have any words on the page. If I've got words, I've got something at least. It might be crap, but it's something.

    One of my writing buddies told me last night to GTFO out of my head and get on with making more words, lol, which was exactly what I needed to hear.

    Wanting to strive for perfection is admirable, but it's never really going to happen. There will always be one more thing to fix, and then one more, etc. You just have to get to a point where you're happy with the story and move on.

    And think of it this way, too -- last year you were still figuring out your process. You'll probably continue to go through that, but I bet the next book will come easier.

    1. I think a lot of us go through this as writers. I have heard people make the statement that a writer has to write a million words before they actually start writing well. I am actually getting to the point of believing that. I've written so much, and I can look back and say that the early stuff is a lot worse than anything I write now. Lol.

      We all need to hear that from somebody at some point! It's good that it helped you. :)

      Pretty much all books have something wrong with them, and part of me believes that's a good thing. We're not perfect, our books don't have to be either!

      You're absolutely right, the next book will be easier. :)