Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Worst Is Over

I realized something amusing about how I write and I thought I'd share it with y'all.

No matter what stage of the game I'm in, I always convince myself that what I am currently doing is "the easy part," and focus on how hard all the other stages of the game are. Then, as I change to new parts of the process, I can congratulate myself on the parts I've already done (because now the hard work is over, whew!) and put the parts I haven't done yet out of my mind (because I'll tackle the actual HARD STUFF when I get there, right?).

It goes something like this.

  • First Draft: Pounding out the first draft is exciting and full of discoveries! It's the fun part! It doesn't have to be good right now. It can be total crap and I will fix it later! The real work will begin in editing, but for now, I just need to worry about getting the words out! So liberating! So freeing! 

  • Revisions: Analytical mode. So much less emotionally exhausting than actually writing the damn thing. Intellectually challenging, yes, but at least I'm no longer in the throes of Creativity Mode and I can calm down, take my time, and take stock of the situation. The Real Work™ is over!

  • Second Draft: Man, the book is so awesome now, thanks to all those ditches I dug in the previous step. That was some dirty work, but now it is OVER! All I have to do now is clean up all the smudges, make some decisions, and guide it with gentle hands. The Real Work™ will begin when people actually start tearing it apart and I have to wade through their feedback.

  • Collecting Feedback: What a snap. I just send it out to my interested test readers, sit back, and wait for their comments. If they say something I don't like, there are no rules saying I have to do what they say! So fun to finally be able to share it. It's only going to get better from here.

  • Final Draft: Well this is easy. All I have to do is polish this thing one more time. Just read it cover to cover. See if I can find anything still wrong with it. Make minor changes. Watch it getting all shiny. Develop confidence in its awesomeness. Sure do have sympathy for those poor saps who are still writing new content!

  • Submission: Sure, sending the book to my agent or seeing it go on to submission at publishers is stressful, but let's face it, everything else was a LOT harder. Waiting for news is no picnic, but at least I'm THROUGH tweaking the silly thing and I don't have to look at it again for a while. I've got it made!
There's another series of book-related troubles I have yet to be frustrated by--edit letters, professional feedback, line edits, contracts, waiting for the release, dealing with the feedback--but I'm sure I'll handle it much the same way. It's like lying on a bed of nails. The reason it works without killing you is that the weight is evenly distributed across a bunch of tiny pokey things. There is no ONE place that's just overwhelmingly hard unless you're trying to handle everything at once . . . and you can't be in that position, at least if you're only working on one book. (Being caught up in several stages of this process with several titles is a different story.)

Objectively, if I had to pick one I think is "hardest," I think I would pick the first round of revisions, because that's when you look at what you have barfed up and determine whether it can be salvaged, and then you have to deal with a LOT of mess if you decide in the affirmative. And I mean, I don't write completely indiscriminately or without a care for the future, but I do actively decide not to worry too much about things I know will need to be worried about eventually. It's the only way I can keep the flow going while I'm actively making new content, I think.

But I certainly don't admit that to myself when I'm in the process of first-round revisions. That would throw the whole thing off. :)

Any commenters want to say which part of the process they find most frustrating and how they deal with it?


  1. First draft is the most frustrating for me. Just GETTING THE WORDS OUT THERE without being impeded by the dang self-critic or the urge to procrastinate, re-edit the stuff that's already down, or getting myself all depressed because I'm feeling like my stuff is crap. That's the worst for me.

    How I deal with it? He he he, well, sometimes I can shut off all that and simply write and it feels good. But that's a rare treat. :(

  2. AHA! I've been doing it wrong. I've been thinking each stage is The Real Work (tm) while I'm in the middle of it, and thinking The Next Stage will be easy. Then I'm always disappointed when I get there and now THIS stage is actually The Real Work.

    So far, revisions have been the hardest for me--first round. It sounds like you operate much the way I do, and that first round of revisions is a b....it difficult.

    And that's where I am so, it may be that the first round of edits is the hardest... I hope not. I hope The Real Work(tm) is behind me.

  3. Hahahaha this is hilarious. I do the same thing. I like to think of it as looking for the positive in everything. ;) But mostly, I think that the initial writing is the hardest for me. My favorite, and the hardest. Editing and revising is going back and dissecting and fixing and changing things around, and I always love getting feedback of others to help me make it the best it can be. But there is something awesome about the raw, organic power of just writing a first draft, too.