Interesting development here.
I was making decent progress on my new manuscript until I shared the first half of a first draft with my editors.
Quick question–have any of the writers here ever shared early pages with an editor and been told, “I love it! Keep going!” right off the bat? That has never happened to me. I get that it’s not realistic. (If this actually has happened to you, please consider my question rhetorical and we can remain friends.) Still, a little bitty part of me always hopes . . .
But no. Probably the most acute form of momentum-stopping buzzkill comes when I hear (and agree) that there are major issues with my project.
It takes me a really long time to write a book. I jump over external obstacles (full time job, three children, fill in the usual excuses here) and internal obstacles (motivation, self-doubt, high propensity to procrastinate) to get those words down. Understanding that many will be re-worked, several times, feels like I imagine it would feel to cross a marathon’s finish line and hear an official say, “We’re sorry. No one saw you run the first ten miles of the course. We’re gonna need you to run those ten again.”
Recently, I used the analogy of painting a large room. You prime one wall and then paint it. The color is all wrong. Now there is a decision point.
Re-prime and repaint that wall and make sure you like the new color before going on? That’s a lot of work. Or go on and prime the other three walls and then re-prime the one you just screwed up? If you do that, the whole time you work you must suffer in the knowledge that the first wall is still there, all wrong, waiting for you to make your way back around.
It kind of mocks you.
It’s a weak analogy. Who primes just one wall? Normally we’d do the whole room, then go back and add the color.
So why is it so dang hard to finish a first draft after realizing that what I have so far will need to be re-worked? If I think too long about all the work I’ll re-do, it is paralyzing. So nothing gets fixed in the draft. And nothing new gets added either.
Ultimately, I decided to prime the whole room. Now I have to walk past those early pages every time I come around with my paintbrush.
Moving on in a story without fixing its base is hard. I pretend that the early stuff is already fixed and that all is fine. All the while, I know that when I finally type THE END, it won’t be. I still have a wall to go back and repaint.
And that’s just to get a first draft!
All the “You missed a spot” and “You dripped over here” and “Don’t forget the trim” and “Really? Cornflower blue?” remarks from the editors are still months away.
It would be so much easier to hire a good looking handyman for this job.
When you guys read this on Friday, I’ll be away at Left Coast Crime and probably unable to chime in on any discussion that follows. But I will be with you in spirit, and so will this handyman.