Why I’ve Stopped Editing My Novel
I wrote a 78,000-word novel in six months. The following month, I signed with an agent. Then I started on the edits. And now I’ve stopped.
Seriously. I’ve just stopped. I don’t know what happened to all that momentum, but I will now do literally anything other than edit my novel. My days are spent researching, writing articles, teaching classes, doing readings – not time-wasting, but not novel-editing either. And if I’m honest, I’m mostly doing those other things so that I don’t have to edit. Now I feel faintly sick every time I think about clicking on the novel’s Word file.
So what’s happened? Is it fear of failure, or fear of success? Or a bit of both?
I think it’s that it feels too real. When I was writing the novel I did, of course, hope that someday other people would read it. Now I now that the next thing I write will be read by my agent – a professional, a person who reads the work of dozens of wannabe novelists every day. Even scarier, she’ll then send it out to – oh good god! – editors. It cripples me to think that the sentence I just wrote (the one I’m sure is so imperfect, so clunky, so self-conscious) could one day be read by strangers.
I knew it would be a struggle to get an agent, to get a publishing deal, to get reviews, to get readers. But then the first draft and the agent part seemed to happen fairly easily. So what if the rest of it is that easy? And what if it isn’t? What if I stumble right off the starting block? Far better to just feel pleased with my achievements so far, and never have to find out whether I can really succeed.
Except that’s bullshit. I know it is. I might have some potential, but that’s useless if it stays unfulfilled. I know exactly what I have to do: stop being a fucking wuss and just get down the the grown-up business of editing.
Knowing something isn’t the same as being able to do it, though – so here I am, writing a blog post about how I’m scared of ending up as a failure or a success, instead of moving a step closer to seeing which one it will be. So this is what I ask of you: give me a good, hard kick up the arse and tell me to get back to my bloody edits.
I’m delighted to announce that I have an agent!
Francesca Barrie at Johnson & Alcock will be representing my first novel, Rust and Stardust, as well as (hopefully) whatever comes next. Short story collection? Novella? Genderqueer burlesque mime show? Watch this space…
What’s the grocery list for your current project?
For the past few months I’ve been working on Novel #2, Rust and Stardust, a modern fairy tale about mythical creatures coming of age on a Scottish island.
As research I have been reading masses of Scottish mythology (there are some fascinatingly odd stories about the Hebrides), and now I’m on the hunt for novels about:
- The sea
- Females coming of age.
I’ve been hugely inspired by Kirsty Gunn’s Rain and Sarah Moss’s Night Waking, and next on my To Read list I have Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! and Samantha Hunt’s The Seas.
Anything else you can suggest?