When Great Writing Goes Wrong…

I have a confession to make: I have been avoiding #LoveThyEnemy. And Pleasure’s Payne. And a couple other ones. I haven’t been avoiding them for the usual reasons; I didn’t run into an issue with the manuscript that I can’t write past or am unsure what happens next. The problem is that my writing has been scaring me lately. Why? Because I think it’s…good. 

That may seem a little backwards, but here’s the thing: all the writing advise says that first drafts are bad. The great Ernest Hemingway said that the first draft of anything is crap. Anne Lamott has a whole chapter of her popular fiction writing book Bird by Bird dedicated to crappy first drafts. Some random twitter quote said that a writing who thinks he is writing well is probably writing really badly. The encouragement is always to get whatever crap you can on the page because you can’t fix a blank page, but you can fix a crappy one. But what about a good page?

I’m not saying that every word of #LoveThyEnemy or Pleasure’s Payne is golden. I’m not saying that I have proofread and revised the sections I have written so that they look as good as they do. What I am saying is that maybe, just a little bit, I’ve hit my stride and found my voice with these stories. The thing is, I’ve set the beginnings up well enough that I have to deliver something at the end. The thing is, I can feel great within my reach, and it’s a little scary. Intimidating. All of these great words are clogging up the well. I’m finding new and exciting ways to procrastinate…like writing this post. Bah!

There’s also the possibility that I’m wrong. Every word I’ve written could be drivel. It could be moving in the opposite direction of what everyone in publishing is going in. Or it could be to on trend. Maybe what I have is a steaming pile of crap that needs to be excavated for the evidences that at some point a decent story existed. Maybe I’m just a cockeyed novice with her compass all messed up.

So I called in the big guns. Instead of keeping this project to myself as I have been, I am getting my Beta Reader on the case. Having to turn over my words to her keeps me on track and helps me focus. Next week is my week to share writing with my critique partners, and I’ll send them what I have as well. I entered 10,000 words of #LoveThyEnemy into contest, and plan to enter Pleasure’s Payne into a contest as well. I am putting my work out there for both egregious praise to bolster my self-confidence, constructive criticism to help me fix things that are going wrong, and feedback from contest judges, with the possibility of them garnering an editor or agents attention.

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NaNoWriMo Novel: Trash or Treasure?

Hands collaborating in co-writing or co-editin...

You may feel like the writer and editor in you are two different people. Image via Wikipedia

If you’re like me, you decided to put away your NaNoWriMo novel as soon as December 1st dawned. I needed a little distance from my frantic efforts to come up with a specific amount of words. Whenever I finish working on anything, I like to put it away for a while so that I can come to the proofreading/editing with fresh eyes and a little distance.

Through the magic of time, your novel may begin to look very different to you. If you actually have the goal of turning your novel into something an editor and publisher could love, you find yourself in the difficult position of proofreading your novel for a different focus and purpose than it was written. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that the emphasis is on writing–as much as you can, as often as you can, whether it’s something you can use or not. Now, you find yourself more interested in the story–what advances the plot, what develops the characters, what’s weighing the piece down. You may find you have a lot of superfluous material in some areas while not having enough material in others.

So what do you do with your novel now? How do you know when you have the makings of a good story and when to shove your efforts into the trash before they start to smell? How do you go about editing and proofreading your first draft?

I found a piece of my NaNoWriMo novel far away from where I’d stashed the rest of my manuscript. Reading that one wide rule sheet of paper, front and back, I fell immediately back into the story. There’s something there, something I want to put out into the world for discussion and for people to relate to. It may be a lot of work to finish the piece and edit all of the NaNoWriMo out of it, but the story connects to something in me that says it’s worth pursuing.

Have you looked at any of your NaNoWriMo writing yet? Is your novel trash or treasure? What’s new on the writing horizon for you?