If you are a writer, you will know this state all too well. Any person who works in a creative field will know it. Hell, when I worked in a more corporate environment I felt it too.
Staring at the page.
Where are the words? What needs to happen in this scene? How would your character react after this event?
All good questions, and sometimes impossible to answer. Or so it seems. I’ve spent weeks looking at the opening chapters of the sequel in The Brittany & Charli Series. I drafted the novel in nananowrimo 2018. I vlogged the entire experience in a daily video diary format, which you can check out on my youtube channel. The most hilarious aspect, looking back on those videos, is how proud I was on my first ten or so chapters. I was in a groove. Thinking I knew my characters exceptionally well. That I had covered the major elements and my first few plot points.
Oh boy! Cut to a couple of weeks back when I read over these first ten chapters. Firstly, the character growth from the end of In A Mirror was forgotten. The main characters didn’t read as strong as they should have. Secondly, major parts of the timeline were completely missing. I was staring at the page, questioning, “how the hell did we get here already?”
Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. It’s been hours upon days upon weeks of me staring at this first act, scratching my head and wondering, “how do I fix this?” But maybe time is needed. Maybe time is an important factor in the revision process. It’s taking an overview, and scrambling pieces of the puzzle, until the timeline and story are corrected. I know this from fixing the messy first draft of In A Mirror. I was so overwhelmed I grew sick. I felt like a hack and didn’t know what I was doing. I questioned whether I was a good writer, but thankfully, never gave up. It just took way too long.
Remembering this torturous experience, I’m leaning into staring at the page. Yes I may have many questions I’m currently unable to answer, but I know I’ll get there. When I look at In A Mirror now, I’m extremely proud. I can’t believe I was able to create something so beautiful. I tend to push out of my mind how taxing the revision process was. Like how mothers forget about child birth once they hold their new bub. But revision is a fundamental part of the writing process. There is no way you can get to the editing stage without it. Don’t worry about grammar and spelling at this stage, that’s the final touches. Work out if the character is changing throughout the story, and does the story serve a purpose.
I didn’t realise how rushed my beginning of book 2 was. I know why I did it. I was so excited to get into the action. Book 1 takes longer to get into the action, being the set up for a series. All that world building was taken care of, so I rushed drafting book 2 to get past the inciting incident.
Now, I have to take my time and be more artful. After criticising myself and calling the draft trash, I now see the value it has. Yes, I have to rewrite everything, but it has great bones. The story as a whole has a great arc, and is the perfect filling between book 1 and book 3. (Planning to draft book 3 in nanowrimo 2019! Eep!)
It’s normal to be hard on yourself when reading a first draft. When you finish a first draft, you are on top of the world. You’re elated and convinced you’ve written a masterpiece. A month later, you skim over the first few pages, and say, “Good god, what have I done!”
If you need more time before revising, take it. I did. I wanted to start editing, but I was so down on myself, I had to put the book away again. But now I feel ok. Lucky I am editing In A Mirror, so I can take a break from revising book 2 when needed. So, I’d say I’m at a good place right now.
Drop a comment if you feel my pain. Have you suffered through the revision process? Or was it another stage that left you staring at the page?
Remember, if it’s not fun, don’t take it seriously. We are all just a lunatic writing a book.