Insecure writer’s support group is brought to you by TheNinja Captain: Alex, and this month’s co-hosts are M. Pax, Karen Walker, and Melissa Maygrove.
For those of you who don’t know about the IWSG, this is the time when creators around the world lend support, vent about the process, and generally release the bad so they can take in more good. It works about like the ancient scape goat method of tying your sins onto a goat and sending it out into the wilds (usually to be eaten, but sometimes to rise above the tyranny of predator/pray situations and become super goat).
This month, I’m talking about fortitude in the process. Publishing isn’t easy; no one will tell you otherwise, but what no one really prepares anyone for is the length of time. Sure they say it, but you don’t really understand it until you’ve tried it for yourself. I remember when I first started reading bloggers' journeys to publication. I’d read about people who got their shot and their contracts, and they’d say it took forever and ever and ever. They’d say things like “It took me most of a year to revise that manuscript. I rewrote that scene ten times before I got it right.”
I’ll tell you a secret: I used to think you could edit all of the good out of a project. I used to believe that there was something magical about the first version of the words (and for some people, I’m sure there is, I’m just not one of them).
I think I got this idea from the fact that early on, it was hard to convey what I wanted. On the rare occasions when I managed it in the first shot, I didn’t want to screw it up by messing around with it. As you can imagine, you get better at that part with time and volume of work. Eventually, you get to the point where you write a scene, then rewrite it from a different angle, then for grins you give it another shot and pick which one really captures the essence of that chapter (or if you’re like me, you’ll take pieces of each version and smash them together).
For me, the realization that my very first attempt at something isn’t magical has been, well, a big deal. It also means a lot more rewriting than I’d hoped to be putting in. Now, every time I think a project is done, someone points something out, and I have to go back through and revise for some little detail (or worse some big detail).
The constant feeling like it’s done just to have someone point out where it needs to be fixed is like playing Super Mario Brothers for the first time. You keep beating Bowzer, but the stupid mushroom says “I’m sorry but your princess is in another castle!”
It seems like someone should have given Mario a map to the big castle and said, “They’re probably holding the princess in the big house.” That would have saved Mario a ton of time. Every step of this journey seems like “The princess is in another castle.”
On the other hand, I wasn’t very good at playing Mario in the first levels, so maybe I needed to work my way up to the big castle at the end. When I look back at those other bloggers who “made it” and they wrote about how they spent years spinning their wheels trying to figure out how to make it work, I realize that was the map. You have to find your own way, and all the bumps are part of the road. More than ever, I see why people quit. More than ever, I see I’m not going to stop anytime soon.
I hope I’m getting close to the castle with the princess. In the mean time, I think I’ll have some mushroom soup.
What about you? Did you stick the landing on the first go round, or did you need a few practice castles to get there? Or maybe you're like me, swimming in mushrooms.