Revisions have always been my favorite part of the writing process. That’s when my geek side takes over and I color code scenes and lay them out and analyze story threads and add the details that pull everything together. A control freak’s happy place.
When the editorial letter for book 2 came in I was giddy. I ordered new sticky notes in fun colors. I bought a batch of yellow note pads (I edit long hand) and a box of purple pens to go with the purple binders I’ve been using for this story. Then I printed out all 300 pages. I. Was. Ready!
I rocked chapter one and two. Blew through the first 100 pages even with quite a bit of rewriting. The story was coming together.
And then something wicked happened … I lost my confidence. For every change I made, I second guessed the entire manuscript. I worked on one page for an entire week. Five days on one stinking page. I wrote two paragraphs, deleted four. Wrote one paragraph, flipped through 60 pages to quiet a nag and ended up rewriting an entire chapter.
The voices in my head said I’d broken the book. Ruined the story. I was doomed.
So I did what I always do … I got feedback. And the feedback fed my crisis – loved it vs. nope, not working. We’ve all been there, right? But I’ve always been able to weed out the bits and pieces that felt right and move on.
Except this time. I was doo-doo-doomed!
In a fit of desperation, I whined to a writing friend that I was about to make s’mores on the manuscript bonfire. Her advice: “Trust your gut. You didn’t get where you are on accident. You know better than you think you do!” My response: *laugh-crying because scroll back through the previous two paragraphs*
My gut was as fickle as my creativity. And it wasn’t just with writing. I’ve been very busy triple guessing everything. And I do mean everything. Parenting decisions? Yup. Life choices? Of course. What to cook for dinner? Oh dear lord, I’ve got nothing!
Triple guessing is second nature to me. And I’ve had plenty of “this is crap” moments when it came to my writing. But I always managed to write myself back into a happy spot.
Except this time. What was different? Pretty much everything, actually. That’s helpful, right? Revising on contract, major personal life upsets, a very unsettled political climate, to name a few. My gut was curled up in a corner hugging a stuffed animal, pretending to be in a sunny, remote vacation spot. And as much as I wanted to join my gut in that alternate reality, life and deadlines weren’t going away.
I reread my friend’s advice over and over – “You know better than you think you do!” Maybe she was just blowing hot air up my flannel pjs, but I needed to latch on to something positive so why not this?
First I had to quiet the doubts and there was only one way of doing that … unplug. An awesome writer’s retreat in a soul-refilling location – yeah that. Nope, not that. I unplugged from social media, logged out of email, turned off all news notifications, waved my family off for the day, and spent the next few hours going through my editor’s notes and the manuscript.
And there it was – the story I wanted to tell. Without the distractions of external and internal noise, the story found its way back to the surface.
This is where I give you the lessons-learned and lay out the handy-dandy take away. I wish I could. I wish I could say that I’ve learned what not to do or what to do better in the future. But the truth is, I’ll have another “this is crap, I’m doomed” crisis with the next manuscript or the one after that. Because we’re writers and we do these things to ourselves.
Doubts will always color our manuscripts. Feedback will always be mixed. Every story will have moments of brilliance and hours of despair. When those moments hit, I’ll be looking at this sign and listening to my gut …
What gets you through those times?
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Orly Konig is an escapee from the corporate world, where she spent roughly sixteen (cough) years working in the space industry. Now she spends her days chatting up imaginary friends, drinking entirely too much coffee, and negotiating writing space around two over-fed cats. She is a co-founder and past president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is rep’d by Marlene Stringer, Stringer Literary Agency LLC.
Orly’s debut, The Distance Home, will be released by Forge on May 2, 2017.