Sep 20, 2010

Learning to let go

Laptop computer with yellow legal pad, pen and books Royalty Free Stock Photo

I have a major problem. Well, it isn't a major problem, but it's one that I'd much rather focus on instead of everything else that I've been dealing with lately.

Do I take the time and energy to edit and revise my finished novel - one that I'm not going to do anything with other than consider it practice, or do I forge ahead and continue with my research and basic plotting of my next novel? Here's the dilemma: I acknowledge and understand the importance of rewrites. No one writes a perfect first draft. I know this from my career as a grant writer. I used to pressure myself to write the perfect first draft, but inevitably, no matter how long I held onto that grant and tweaked and searched for just the right words, my boss would return it covered in red pen. I learned to write a draft and get it to her as soon as possible, because no matter what, I'd have to revise. I understand that it's also part of the learning curve when it comes to writing fiction. It's an important step and I need to learn how to do it. Right now, I have no clue how to tackle this thing. Parts of it are utter garbage, while other sections are beautifully descriptive. I know where the gaps are and I know that it's going to take a lot of work to make it something I would let someone read (even my sister or husband). I don't mind doing the work, but I'd really like to start Novel #2 to coincide with the start of NaNoWriMo 2010 - November 1st, and there's no way I can revise my first novel and get myself prepared for the second novel in a little over four weeks.

I don't want to abandon this novel because I'm proud, not necessarily of what is written on all those pages, but because I actually did it. I do believe that the idea I have for the second novel is much stronger. I think the characters are better developed and overall I think the plot is more interesting. Maybe I should just look at the first novel as practice. An experiment. An example of my persistence and drive. Maybe I should put it away and focus on the second novel. I toy with the idea of doing both - revising for the next couple of weeks and then researching/plotting the second half of October, but I don't think my brain can handle it. I feel rushed and that is coming through in the revision process. Sure I can edit all the grammar and move around a few sections, but I haven't really delved into the true revisions - making my characters stronger, adding or cutting subplots, ramping up the conflict, etc. That not only takes time, it takes thought. It takes focus and concentration, and I don't feel like I'm willing to give that right now. I think I'd rather take that energy and put it into a better idea.

I really feel like I'm skipping a step in the novel-writing process. Kind of like I'm collecting my $200 without crossing Go. I feel as though other writers will look at me and say, "You can't move on to a second novel when you really haven't finished the first." I also feel a little sad to be giving up on this novel. I like it, but I don't love it. With everything going on in our lives right now, I don't feel like I have the time and energy to spend on something I don't feel passionate about.  Maybe someday I'll go back to it, but I think that the more I write - the more experience I get and more I learn about the craft - I won't feel so bad about letting it go.

So here's to a new idea and the next novel.


Jason said...

It's OK. You have a complete first draft of a novel, and that's amazing. You can do whatever you want with it, whenever you want. Embrace that. Know that I'm jealous. :-) And then tackle your new challenge in November.

tracyellen said...

Join me! We can be NaNo buddies. I think you would have fun...and it would be completely different from what you're doing now.

Jason said...

I can't start another project until I finish this one. I've come so far, yet I still don't even have a completed manuscript...I have to finish it.

I'm trying to figure out, though, whether I can do my own NaNo-type activity with this novel alongside you. This, we can discuss...

Katie Ganshert said...

Hey Tracy!! I did read Love Walked In and really liked it. So I'm excited to pick up the characters again with Belong to Me. :)

As far as rewrites verses starting a new novel. I feel ya, girl! My first two novels were largely practice. They'll never see a book shelf, that's for sure. I think it's okay to move on if you're really excited about the next novel. Just as long as we all keep learning and growing and moving forward, ya know?

Love Revision and Self-Editing, by the way! Awesome craft book!