Process and Patience
This third revision?
It’s been really hard.
Exhilarating and nerve-wracking and exhausting and wonderful, all twisted and twined in one Word document. I have been alternately stalking around like a bee-stung bitch-troll and a love-struck fool. Sometimes, I become both in the space of five schizophrenic minutes.
I get stuck in my head, theorizing and problem-solving, and then I can’t articulate anything. My fingers feel alien and awkward on the keys. I stare at the screen and despair that I will ever be able to fix it, to have the story unfold as organically or as interestingly as it lives in my head. It is not good enough. Will it ever be good enough?
Sometimes, I know exactly how to fix it. I slash-burn and pin-prick. I write new connective tissue. I’m fully present, intuition spinning, fingers racing. Hours disappear. I know before my husband tells me that it’s ten times better. There’s nothing more amazing than this feeling, this instinctive knowing, except falling inside another world so completely–which makes it possible in the first place.
I had a much-needed chat with Jill today. She empathized and sympathized and then pointed out very sweetly that I am ridiculous. Three weeks ago, I set myself a December 1 deadline to start querying. Three weeks ago, I started feeling particularly self-doubting and prickly. I hadn’t actually made the connection, obvious though it was.
It’s a completely arbitrary deadline. I made it up to coincide with my participation in Jonowrimo. I also hoped that the Christmas season would distract me from inevitable rejections. But I cling to my own pretend deadlines. I am the girl who makes fun to-do lists for long weekends and then gets mad at herself for not completing everything on the list.
So. I thought I might have a nice shiny draft I felt proud of by December 1. But it seems I might not. And I am trying to respect that. I’m so bad at being patient with myself. I wrote the first draft in seven months (but barely wrote during October and November, while I was dramaturging a show). I did my initial revisions in four months. I am now on month two of draft three. I know there are people who write much faster. And of course I wish the words came out perfectly-paced and well-crafted and brilliant. But.
It is getting better. The first nine chapters are down 10,000 words and 30 pages, and they are much tighter and cleaner for it.
Fellow writers? Do you set deadlines for yourself? Do you get impatient during revisions? How long did your first novels gestate before you sent them off into the world? I’d love to hear how other people work. Please tell me this frazzlement is not uncommon.