Monday, September 15, 2014

The Dark Night of the Writer's Soul

In 2011 I decided to stop dreaming about being a writer, and start writing. It took about a year of blogging and a couple of NaNoWriMos under my belt before I felt comfortable thinking of myself as a writer, but I got there.

A big step forward was joining Writers Village University, where I took classes and joined critique groups. I was finally learning the mechanics of my chosen craft. Best of all, I was interacting with people who understood the journey I was on, because it was their journey, too.

Writing is full of ups and downs. There are days when the words flow through my fingers, onto the page, as if by magic. Other days, dynamite and a jackhammer aren't enough to get the job done. The solution to that problem is simple: keep going.

What isn't so simple is how to handle putting heart and soul into something that just won't come together, or even just fearing that it won't. I'm in that place with my current WIP right now. I'm at the end of draft number two, and it is already clear that a third draft will be needed.

The problem is I changed the plot substantially in draft two, deleting scenes that no longer fit and adding quite a few new ones. While the plot seems to work better (plotting is my downfall, always), now there are inconsistencies that need to be weeded out. I've got foreshadowing for things that are no longer slated to happen, sub plots that go nowhere, that sort of thing.

I've already spent a year on this one story, ripping it apart and re-writing it. The idea that I might spend another six months, still just trying to pull it together, is daunting. Beneath the fretting about technical challenges and how long it is all taking lies a deeper insecurity, the worry that, even after round three of edits, it still won't come together.

That is the worry that plagues us all, I think, that what we write won't be good enough. That we aren't good enough.

There is a very strong temptation at these moments to just quit, to give up, start over, write something new and leave this story behind. Sometimes that truly is the answer, I believe. But not this time. This time I need to keep going, to keep writing. I might need to put my manuscript away for a few weeks before I start draft number three, so I can come back to it with fresh eyes, but come back to it I will.

Honestly, sometimes I think of writing like I think about walking a large, eager dog. There are moments when I can't tell if I'm writing the story, or if the story is simply dragging me along, taking me where it wants to go. All I know for sure right now is as long as the story still wants to be told, I still want to be the one to tell it, even if I'm not sure which one of us is in control half the time.

The one thing I will not do, cannot allow myself to do, is to listen to that small, negative voice in the back of my head, the one that tells me I can't do it. Truly, I don't know yet if I can or if I can't. The only way to find out is to do it, to walk the path to the end to see where it winds up.