Right now, I’m about four weeks away from beginning yet another round of revisions on my novel. Why four weeks, you ask? Because the draft is still out with two readers and, by the time I get their changes back, I’ll be preparing for a trip to Guatemala with friends. A series of semi-major revisions is hard enough as it is. I don’t even want to think about starting then when I know I’ll have to take a ten-day break right in the middle of the thought process.
So I’m in wait mode. But I’m not twiddling my thumbs, either. I’ve been critiquing, reading, and taking advantage of the time to relax. We’ve talked about the importance of breaks before, remember?
I’ve also been reviewing and mulling comments from the critique copies I’ve already received. Already, a few fixes are forming in my mind, but I have to admit I’ve also been thinking about some of the feedback with mixed emotions. Brandon Sanderson and others often say writers must learn to kill their darlings – to cut away pieces of the manuscript that don’t serve the story even though the writer holds them in particular fondness. That is certainly the case in a couple of suggested edits. But more than any personal attachment for these details, I am not sure how I would hold the story’s track if I change them. And its track is long-term – longer than just one book. Longer than one trilogy. Long enough to span into other books outside the trilogy, but still within the same universe, using crossover characters.
My fiction teacher told me my novel concept is crazy complex. She’s right. I know I need to carve away several elements that muddy the waters unnecessarily. Still, I’m worried my efforts to simplify it, if not very carefully done, may just make things worse.
This is exactly why she advised me to sit with these suggestions for a few weeks. Wise words. I’m grateful for the waiting period enforced by my travel plans, since the urge to edit right now is strong.
I envy writers who say they finished a book in a couple of years. I don’t know how they do it. I’ve been working on this long-term story, its universe, and its multiple worlds for maybe eleven years, though this particular book only took workable form about five or six years ago. That was when I started learning the actual craft of writing marketable fiction. Others have said it took them ten years and seven or more drafts to get something worthy of a winning query. I think that’s where I am right now. This will be my seventh draft, which will require yet another round of readers and critiques.
It sometimes feels endless, but I just keep reminding myself that every draft carries me closer to a published book.
I saw a quote the other day that’s worth sharing: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge
The truth is, writing is not a short-term craft. It’s a long game, one that sometimes changes as you play. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like this was all a failed experiment, and I should just take the hint and give up. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this craft. Maybe I’ll never have enough skill to make it in such a tough business. And every time, either I or the Bobinator or some other reader of my work yanks my head out of the Well of Doubt and shakes some sense into me. Next day, I’m back at the keyboard.
That’s why I know I’m in this for the long haul. I can’t let this go—not just this book, but the writing life in general. If it’s taught me nothing else, the experience of crafting fiction has shown me beyond all doubt that I’m at my best when I’m drafting new stories.
So damn the discouragement. Full steam ahead.
Draft # Seven, here I come.