Why I’ve Stopped Editing My Novel
9th Mar 2012 in Personal
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.
We know how you feel – we have three short stories sat on the desk, all with deadlines only a few weeks away, but here we are on twitter, looking for things to comment on
We reckon you could either: pick the section that you think is the *best* and work on that, in the hope that it gives you enough of a happiness-bump to approach the rest of it;
You could (and this is probably what we would do) grab the bit you think is the *weakest* and work on that first – then everything else can be approached with a ‘Well, at least it won’t be as bad as those other bloody pages’ swagger.
Whatever you do – good luck!
For God’s sake get on with it. How on earth are we going to read it if you don’t finish it. I, for one (amongst many I suspect) am looking forward to reading it.
(That okay? :-))
Perhaps in a way you were driving on fumes, the pure adrenalin of your love of writing and desire to ‘get out in the world’ and now, to a certain level you’ve achieved this so the momentum has stopped, all of a sudden. Over Christmas, Jan and Feb I was working flat out to finish a novel. I felt as if I would die from overwork (there was a deadline of sorts) and yet now I’m faffing about as if there is nothing else to be done although there’s another novel in waiting with several thousand words done and agents to try for etc. Perhaps this is all just perfectly normal and that given another week or two you might find yourself with a vague, indistinct itch to get working on your book again. Or you might pick it up and see a flash of a section you love and get drawn in again. You’ve been supersaturated and now you need to de toxify (not that your book is toxic) before you go back. All part of the creative process i would say. Mental regrouping etc x
Editing is the worst… Until you actually force yourself to sit and do it. When I actually get to that point I find it really immersive and keep going for hours. Which is a reason not to do it – I don’t have hours at a time to spend…
Anyway, I feel your pain, but come along, you can’t get so tantalisingly close to literary stardom only to stop now! Print out a chapter, grab a coloured pen and get on it. Good luck!
I’m feeling the same way about my PhD (In middle of second year of three). I kind of know what I need to do but am finding it difficult to settle down and do it.
I would describe it as having lost my passion. What made you passionate enough to keep you going through to the end of 78,000 words? Can you reharness the passion perhaps by visualising your edited novel and the advantages that will occur as a consequence?
We both know that doing nothing at this stage will equal failure!
Now could you just say the same thing to me, please? Thanks.
An audience and our potential interaction with it is a fabulously interesting thing. Would a writer be happy to write with no prospect of an audience? It’s a question that’s always drawn me. Anyway. Kick. There you go. : )
Do NOT procrastinate any longer! Take some of the usual advice and make yourself sit down with it for an hour a day. Try printing it out and working with it that way. Set yourself manageable goals but really, get on with it! It will be OK. Yes, suddenly the stakes are higher, but people (ie your agent, and us) are waiting on you to get it all polished up. Chop, chop, Lady!
(Sorry but would hate to see fizzlage occur)
Go and buy yourself some fabulous coloured pens (never knew a word-lover who does not also love stationery). Line them up. Choose a colour. Print a chapter. Make a cup of tea. Promise yourself a biscuit after 2,000 words of edit. You loved it once – you will do again.
I’m wearing triple soled brothel creepers and I’m KICKING hard. XXX
I’m feeling the same with a short story that’s gotten great feedback from top tier editors but needs exactly two things fixed… and I’m almost afraid to touch it. I have no fear of edits when a draft is still messy and in formative stages, but it’s scary to do those last revisions, where the thing is 90-95% done and you worry fixes might undo what was working. But yeah, get the kick in the arse going and get it done. You’re so close. Just get it done!
The novel will be rubbish. There’s no point in finishing it. No one will ever read it.
You are a useless waste of space and you should just give up now anyway.
(Psssssst I’m trying reverse psychology, is it working? Nothing motivates me more than people thinking I can’t do something. But I’m quite contrary like that. If that doesn’t do it for you please disregard the above abuse. Soz.
If it is working then go with it. I usually find a conversation with my angry, patronising, career-doubting mother gets a fire lit in my belly. I can give you her number if you like. )