The Part That Kills Me

May 30, 2011 at 9:00 am (Writing) (, , )

You get an idea. You plan it out, you do the research, you write a novel. You let it sit for a little while, read a stack of books to make your brain unknot itself, and then go back and edit. And edit. And edit. And you do research on agents, you slave and fret over a query letter and a synopsis and putting everything together just the way it needs to be. You go back through, convinced it’s not right yet, and find some more things to edit. So you change your letters, update the pages. You stare at the computer.

And then, if you’re smart, you back away. For just a little while longer.

I hate that part.

I also happen to suck at it.

I recently(ish) finished a project I absolutely love. It’s a project that has been tumbling around in my head in one form or another for about eleven years, and I kept putting it off because it just didn’t feel right yet. I wasn’t yet where I needed to be as a writer to achieve even a measure of what was in my head, because what was playing across that mental screen was beautiful and terrifying and creepy and, perhaps most frightening of all, eerily resonating. I wasn’t there yet.

But finally- FINALLY- I woke up from a deep sleep and a dream and scrambled for the notebook by my bed because I finally, finally had the foundation that would let me support the character that had been living inside my head for so long. (On a side note, I do recommend turning on a light and putting on any necessary glasses before scribbling middle of the night notes- it’s very, very frustrating to try to translate the 3am heiroglyphics when you look at them again the next morning) I plotted and planned, I researched, I lost count of the number of hand cramps I got while writing out notes. I obsessed over it, really, even more so than my other projects. When I actually started writing, I couldn’t get it out of my head. My narrator didn’t step aside when I left the pages; she stayed in my thoughts, coloring the way I saw everything, and it was always easy to tell when I was actually writing because my sister would get frequent text messages mentioning how much my narrator was creeping me out- and how much I loved it.

And then the first draft was done.

I managed to set it aside for several weeks, my fingers itching the entire time, before I went back to do the first round of edits. I’ve been doing my agent reserach, been driving myself crazy working on several variations of a query letter (I loathe writing query letters) and I’m at the point where I can send it off.

But if I do, I’m an idiot.

Because I know- KNOW- if I can make myself wait a few more weeks and not touch it at all, I’ll see more to fix, more to tweak, ways to make it better and stronger.

But I SUCK at waiting.

And it’s times like this that make me wonder if it’s possible to want something too badly.

My dad doesn’t really get the whole wanting-to-be-an-author thing. He enjoys reading but he thinks of writing as a hobby, not something to take all that seriously. But, he’s really trying to be supportive because he knows it’s important to me, understands that it is something that I very much want to do even if he doesn’t get why. So every now and then, I get an emailed link or an envelope with clips from a newspaper talking about self-publishing or self-e-publishing.

I know there are people who make that work very well, but the key word there is work. As in- A LOT OF WORK. And for people who are willing and able to put in that kind of work, there can be a good pay off, but there are limitations to that as well. We get a lot of self-pubbed or POD mill authors in the store wanting to know why we don’t have their books on the shelves, and at least 98% of the time it’s because we can’t. If a book is print-on-demand, we actually cannot put it on the shelves, it is pre-pay order only. That kind of publishing also requires a substantial investment, requires a hell of a lot of time, and means you’re probably spending more time trying to promote and sell your book than writing the next one. I’m not knocking this, and I hope no one takes it that way, because I know it works for people.

But what I want- what I’ve wanted since I was probably five years old- is to walk into a bookstore and have a really good chance of seeing a copy of my book sitting on the shelf. I mean yeh, seeing it on websites would be great, but I want to walk in to a random store and see it. I can’t do that if I try to go this road by myself, and one thing I try very hard to be is honest with myself: I would SUCK at trying to do it by myself. Juggling the details, trying to do the publicity all by my onesie, managing the graphic design of the cover or the interior of the book or the website. Oh, and that whole pesky initial investment thing…I have to stress every month about rent and utilities and each time the gas prices go up I start lookinhg at Ramen. I don’t have a couple thousand bucks lying around to pay someone to print my book, before we even get into the idea of publicizing.

I’ve been querying for a couple of years now. This will be the third project I’ve sent out, and each round, each project, I learn so much more. I get feedback, some of it more useful than others, and each time, I think I get closer.

And I love this one so much. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written, may be my favorite thing I’ll ever write in some ways, so I think it’s a little hard for me to step back far enough to see if it’s actually ready. It feels ready.

So did the others.

So what I need to do is take that deep breath, close the folders that have all my submission materials, and not look at it for a while. I suck at waiting. I hate waiting. But I think I need to- because I so badly want this to be the one.

I need to step back. I need to look towards my next project, whatever that turns out to be (there are several contenders at the moment). And I need to not drive myself crazy with this.

Step away from the send button.


Anyone else in this position right now? I’d be really grateful to hear how you deal with it.

Until next time~


  1. hawleywood40 said,

    I’m not in this position at the moment, but so understand the struggle between needing to put things aside to come back with a fresh eye and mind and edit and rework versus the desire to just get them out there! Sometimes I just can’t wait any longer, and other times I think I put things aside and rework them so much that I lose some of the original intuitive flow. It is such a balancing act!

  2. GladElf said,

    You know I’m not anywhere close to where you are yet…but I can resonate with the whole sucking-at-waiting-thing. It’s gotten me into trouble time and time again. From not wanting to take the time to balance my checkbook before I het the bookstore to wanting to just go ahead and buy that pretty new car.
    I think waiting, at any level, is something that every human being struggles with. We are not patient creatures and today’s “get-it-now” society is not helping. I believe that patience is something that can only come with time. And I know it does come, because I can look at me and then look at my dad (because we are very alike) and see that someday I will have some patience–except perhaps when it comes to getting people to unload the dishes.

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