I've had my beta comments for The Other Side for over a month now, yet I'm still writing the new subplot. It's going to be six chapters instead of five, and while I'm liking where it's going, it's not coming fast enough. I pretty much know everything that's supposed to happen -- I've written a rough outline with only a few specifics -- so it should be pouring out of me.
But it's not.
Sunday morning, or maybe it was Saturday night, I finally got angry. At myself. This is stupid, there is no reason for me not to have already finished this. I knew when I decided to add a subplot that my February query deadline would be shot, but it's April and I still haven't even gotten to the EDITS.
Now, I'm on the fourth draft, but I think I finally realized what's holding me up: I'm technically on the first draft for six chapters. All those anxieties I thought I left in my spiral bound notebook have crept back into my subconscious.
I hadn't read any blogs since Wednesday, so Sunday afternoon I got caught up on days worth of writing wisdom. Two of my favorite bloggers stepped up and hit me over the head with the motivation stick.
Alexandra Sokoloff's post at Murderati, Your First Draft is Always Going to Suck, is a must-read. She said lately around the blogosphere she's noticed a lot of writers getting stuck, sidetracked, or otherwise preoccupied, and she's offered up some excellent advice:
People are getting about midway through a book, and then lose interest, or have no idea where to go from where they currently are, or realize that a different idea is superior to what they’re working on and panic that they’re wasting their time with the project they’re working on, and hysteria ensues.
So I wanted to take today’s blog to say this, because it really can’t be said often enough.
Your first draft is always going to suck.
She goes on to say:
Even though you will inevitably end up writing on projects that SHOULD be abandoned, you cannot afford to abandon ANY project. You must finish what you start, no matter how you feel about it. If that project never goes anywhere, that’s tough, I feel your pain. But it happens to all of us. You do not know if you are going to be able to pull it off or not. The only way you will ever be able to pull it off is to get in the unwavering, completely non-negotiable habit of JUST DOING IT.
Your only hope is to keep going. Sit your ass down in the chair and keep cranking out your non-negotiable minimum number of daily pages, or words, in order, until you get to the end.
This is the way writing gets done.
Some of those pages will be decent, some of them will be unendurable. All of them will be fixable, even if fixing them means throwing them away. But you must get to the end, even if what you’re writing seems to make no sense of all.
You have to finish.
At some point you will come to hate what you're writing. That's normal. That pretty much describes the process of writing. It never gets better. But you MUST get over this and FINISH. Get to the end, and everything gets better from there, I promise. You will learn how to write in layers, and not care so much that your first draft sucks. Everyone's first draft sucks. It's what you do from there that counts.
This really struck a nerve with me, and for a reason she doesn't mention: I really like my book. I honestly believe in my story, and while I know we all say that, I'm excited to get to the next step and start querying. I'm not nervous, I'm not scared, I'm just pissed at myself that I'm still piddling around with this draft.
Yes, I've been busy with work that is actually bringing in money, but that's not an excuse. The majority of my writing friends have families, and a lot of them also have jobs. I have neither. I have no excuse.
Erica Orloff's post, Bring It, is icing on Sokoloff's cake. She discusses how the economy has made it even more necessary for writers to, well, bring it, if they want to succeed. The advice that most struck me is:
Every page has to be a page turner. Why are some books those people CAN'T PUT DOWN? Can't. Will stay up all night to finish? What's the X-factor. Well, of course if we knew, we'd all be lifting our glasses and congratulating each other from our houses in Lake Cuomo. But . . . one thing most "can't put down" books have is PACING. Everything extra is stripped bare. The pacing is flawless.
As you all know, my past two reads -- A Thousand Splendid Suns and Water for Elephants -- have kept me up way past my bedtime. The first jumped to the top of my favorite books list, and the second is up there. While I read, I kept wishing I could write a story that affects people the way these writers have, and that's when it hit me: I can't affect anyone if I don't finish the story!