Savannah J. Foley
I’m very confident –when I’m writing. When I’m in cycles that I don’t write, however, my confidence starts to slip. I start thinking all these defeatist thoughts: Writing is so hard, it’s taking so long, the issues in this manuscript are insurmountable, etc.
I’ve felt like this a lot lately. May 15th was the 7-year anniversary of finishing the first draft of my novel NAMELESS. And I’m still in revisions.
Oh, there were times during this 7 year period that I thought I was finally done. But even after ‘done’ was declared something would happen that made either me or my agent decide that a little more work was needed. More recently, a lot of work.
I converted a trilogy into a single book and sent it off. It came back with a thumbs up on the new plot, but a thumbs down on the voice. My character was still clinging to her adult persona; I need to fully let her go and be a teenager. Susan recently did a wonderful post on how to revise, step-by-step, and though I thought her article was brilliant, and I’ll definitely use it for future novels, I’m at a point with NAMELESS where even Sooz’s brilliant methods can’t help. This is a voice issue. That means every single sentence has to be examined, and I need to determine if it stays or needs to be fixed. In a 110k manuscript, that’s a lot of sentences.
The task was (and still is) daunting. So after about five chapters of revisions, I just… stopped. Oh, I had good excuses. My laptop finally failed. My new laptop didn’t have Word on it. A tornado hit and the power was out for a week. I was on vacation. I was busy working, going to the gym, cooking, cleaning, reading, and watching Game of Thrones.
And through it all I kept thinking, ‘what if it will never be good enough?’ What if I can’t do this? What if this story will never come together right? What if it’s broken?
What if I’m not really a writer?
What would happen if I gave up right now? Left LTWF, shut down my blog and Twitter account and just… lived a normal life for a while. Tried to forget that I ever called myself a writer. Stepped out of the rushing stream that is the writing industry and laid by the shore.
I knew what would happen: I would be a quitter. A coward. I could not let that happen.
I finally buckled down and decided I would just get used to using Open Office until I can afford Word. I would let the house dirty itself and scrounge around for dinner and not go to the gym if I had to. But I had to start writing again, even if I felt like a failure.
Something magical happened.
I’ve read the first few chapters of my novel probably a thousand times, in all its different forms. I love the beginning. If writing a novel is like polishing a rough stone, then the beginning has been touched so many times that it’s a sparkling diamond. I always re-read my first few chapters to get back in the ‘mood’ of the novel, and psych myself up to keep working.
NAMELESS did not disappoint.
Suddenly I felt this rushing, like an invisible wind from the universe was rustling inside me, filling me up with all the faith and sense of ‘rightness’ I would ever need. Of COURSE I could do this. Of COURSE this is the right thing for me to do in my life. I was meant for this. I belong to this. To quote, writing is the one thing in the world that, when I’m doing it, I don’t think I should be doing something else.
And I remembered that this had all happened before. I go through cycles of not working, letting my manuscript’s problems settle and take root in my subconscious. And every time I decide I’m ready and go back to work again I get that magical feeling that lets me know I’m doing the right thing.
I feel like an instant writer again. So if you’ve stepped away from your novel and are questioning whether it’s even worth the effort to go back, if you’re discouraged and tired and wondering if it’s all worth it, just try reading a bit of what you’ve already done. Soon you’ll be wrapped up inside your story and then you won’t want to stop. You’ll want to keep creating and growing your project until it reaches the shining conclusion.
While my agent had a few sample chapters of NAMELESS, I worked on my next novel, a sleeping beauty retelling. Then, with this memorial weekend giving me the perfect opportunity to stay home and write, I wrote 6,000 words on Saturday, 4,000 words yesterday, and finished the manuscript. It felt good to finish a long project, but even better than that, I felt relief at refreshing my faith in myself. If I could crank out word levels like that, then obviously I was good enough to hack it.
In conclusion, sit down. Eliminate Distractions. Write your story.
Savannah J. Foley is the author of the Nameless (originally known as Woman’s World) series on Fictionpress and is signed with the Bradford Literary Agency. Her website is www.savannahjfoley.com, but she updates more frequently on her livejournal. She is currently working on editing Nameless to go out on submissions. You can read an excerpt from Nameless here.