One thing I have learned in my life is that you need good friends. Maybe you only need one, or two, but you need them. This is universally true for everyone. Even if you aren’t a crazy writer like myself prone to sudden evil bouts of self annihilation, you will at some point require a bit of Crisis Mangagement. This is not something you can do yourself. It requires that a very firm hand (not your own) comes in from left field with a smack worthy of Joan Crawford that lands in your face and shocks some sense into you.
Or possibly a less violent version of Crisis Management would do the trick, but it must be firm, swift, and merciless enough to freeze your rising hysteria.
I have such a person who happens to be only slightly less mad than myself, a stalwart friend and fellow writer who, from her gorgeous blog full of pretty things, you’d never imagine could execute such a tactical blow to one’s head. Angela talked to me at great length on Sunday during the worst of my writing and personal crisis. The crisis was not as sudden as it may have appeared but its force was pretty breathtaking. Angela spent at least an hour IMing me (what a modernist I really am) and I knew that all she said was sensible and to anyone less intent on implosion, must have made me feel instantly better.
It didn’t. Because I had to feel bad just a little longer. However, all of Angela’s words, and the warm care she offered in friendship did get through to me and when I was much calmer I was left with some homing questions to answer and some reassurance that I’m not suited to a life as a grave digger or steel mill worker. Once I stopped crying (I suppose this was my annual crying jag) all her words did their work.
Even better than that she read my last version of chapter one and the newest one to compare them and offer her own opinion, which is very trustworthy. It turns out I was right. The newest chapter is a piece of crap compared to the last version. (She did NOT use such words, those are mine) The outcome is that she thought all I needed was to add a very FEW more pieces of information to set the whole story up than I have now and might possibly benefit from a prologue. In fact, her verdict was very encouraging.
Conclusion: trust my gut or I’ll rewrite the entire book into one huge festival of pulp. She gave me some practical suggestions on how to achieve the goal and I have taken notes.
She also asked important questions:
- Why do I feel it’s so important to finish this book right now instead of letting it rest and starting a new project? (Hold the phone! I have to write more than one book?!)
This was the most important question of all. I have been pushing and pushing myself very hard. What’s the rush? Other than my middle age being upon me and knowing that getting anything published (unless you do it yourself) is a torturously long process, I need to have one finished book to be actively submitting to agents and publishers. I need to write the kick-ass query and since it probably won’t be kick-ass going out of the gate, I need to practice. I want to practice with a real finished project. While working on the next book I need to have one to be actively pushing. I can’t bear to have a string of unfinished books with nothing to show for the unbelievable amount of hours I’ve put into them. If someone says “You wrote a book? Can I read it?” I want to be able to let them read a manuscript that is good enough for an editor.* Once I have an editor ready manuscript to work at selling I will be fine having several unfinished projects to work on.
- Most authors don’t get their first or second book published but more likely their third or fourth (point is, it takes a lot of practice for most authors to write something good enough to get printed) so am I pinning all my hopes on this one getting published?
I am NOT. This book will get published. It will get published because I believe it needs to be in print and available for people to read. If no publisher will take it on I will print it myself later on and make it available in very small numbers directly through me. I don’t expect this book to be snatched up and if it is published by a publisher I don’t expect it to make me a fortune. That would obviously be very helpful, what with my house and health care situation, but I have very low expectations as far as that is concerned. But I’ll tell you what- I do think it will get published and I do think if it gets a chance and any publicity at all, it will do reasonably well.
- Am I going to freak out like this every single time I have to write a third draft and if so, can I please provide chocolate for the event?
Yes, I absolutely anticipate freaking out every single time and I will try to be more thoughtful next time and provide chocolate. I tried to be one of them new-fangled mellow authors who aren’t hair pulling mental cases with a strong taste for liquor, but I am, it turns out, quite traditional. (Though beer is my poison of choice, not something more awesome like whiskey or gin) Apparently I have a writing breakdown that makes me want to engage in very bad behavior like punching windows out with my bare hands or throwing my laptop from the roof about every sixth chapter.
My advice to you, if you are a writer in the classic style, is to have a writing friend with infinite patience and the calm good sense to talk you out of smashing your laptop with that hammer you keep swinging around.
*I don’t propose to get my manuscript to what I would call a “perfect” place because the second and editor gets their hands on it they will change things and force a clean up of the most minute details, there is no point in agonizing to that degree before it ever gets in the hands of an editor.