Monday, May 16, 2011
I started writing on January 3. And it took me approximately 17 week or 97 days. I had to take two full weeks off in February to do in-house editing on The Doctor’s Lady. But otherwise I wrote 1000 words a day, 6 days a week. My goal was 6000 words a week. So on the days I didn’t make 1000 words, I’d write a little more on another day to make up for it.
As I neared the homestretch, I realized how much I’d grown to love the story. In fact, as I outlined the last two chapters, I was super excited about the way everything was coming together. I’d gotten my heroine into deadly trouble and had figured out how to get her out believably. I’d developed those tricky character arcs so that my hero and heroine had changed enough, but were still imperfect. And I’d even managed to tie events together, use symbolism throughout, and wrap up the romance sweetly.
However, I know the love I’m feeling for my story won’t last. I’ll spend the next 6 weeks self-editing and getting feedback from my critique partner. During that time, I’ll grow increasingly more critical. My love will continue to diminish. Then I’ll turn the book in to my publisher and get feedback from my editors. At that point, I’ll loathe the book. Cry over it. Wonder why I ever bothered. And seriously consider ripping it up and throwing it away.
Yes. This happens every time. I fall madly in love with my book and think it’s the best thing I ever wrote, but then I gradually fall out of love and think it’s the worst thing in the world. As much as I wish I could avoid the painful swing of emotions, I’m coming to realize it’s normal, even helpful.
Writers need to fall in love with their stories during the first draft.
Our creativity needs freedom during the first draft. Sure, I carefully plot out my book. I’m intentional with themes, character development, and story pacing. I even challenge myself with each new book to focus on growing in a particular area.
But . . . during the writing process, I delve deeply into my imaginary world. I ignore my internal editor. I give the story the freedom to grow and become its own entity. I give my characters permission to change and develop. And I don’t allow myself to be critical of my book in any way, shape, or form. I don’t compare myself to others.
I focus on my story. I let myself only see the good and the positive. I relish in it. And in doing so, I’m able to keep writing day after day—without inhibition.
But after the first draft, writers need to fall out of love with their books.
That initial blindness to our story’s faults and problems serves us well during first draft creativity. But when we reach the editing stage, it’s time to pull out the guns and start shooting holes in our work.
We need to open our eyes wide to our faults, the areas where we’re weak, the many problems our stories will have. At this stage, we need to take off the protective, rose-colored glasses and see our work in all its nakedness.
We’ll do ourselves a favor to put our work under the intense scrutiny of our own self-editing, the eagle-eyes of our critique partners, and any other outside help we can get (contest feedback, freelance editors, beta readers, etc.).
We should begin to feel the pain of having our work ripped apart. And if we don’t feel pain, we’re probably not being honest enough with the quality of our work. At this point, it’s perfectly normal to grow so critical that we loathe our work. It’s then, when we ache that we can use the negative energy to push us to work harder to get our stories even better.
Problems arise when we get the love-hate relationship in the wrong order.
During the first draft, if we fail to fall in love and instead turn on the inner critic, we’ll risk a number of problems: writer’s block, word flow issues, slower speed of writing, lack of motivation, etc. We could even risk losing out on the joy of the writing process itself.
During the editing, if we fail to fall out of love and instead see our work too highly, we’ll risk a number of problems: we won’t be able to evaluate our work critically enough, we might reject hard feedback from others, we could even become embittered by a writing industry that we deem as “unfair” or too “limited.”
My Summary: Allow ourselves to fall madly in love with our first drafts. That’s important to the creative flow. But then make sure we put an end to the love-affair during the editing. That’s equally important to the process of writing.
What do you think? Have you ever gone through the love-hate relationship with one of your books? Have you ever gotten the love-hate relationship in the wrong order?
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