Writers: We’re Not Alone

1:05 am

music playing: Rasputina’s In Old Yellow Cake

I’m still stuck revising the first three chapters of my draft.  More and more I am learning how important the beginning must be.  Of course, I want my whole novel to be great.  (I certainly don’t want a reader to get to the middle and then throw it across the room)  But if the very first page isn’t flawless, an agent is never going to look further.  And there goes the chance for any reader to ever even get to the middle of my novel.

I’ve been working on this all day and somehow have managed not to O.D. on caffeine.    And I still frigging have not made much progress.

Grrr…

But as difficult as all this is- I also love it. I love thriving towards something. Have something to dream about, and work on every day. I think life must be rather dull for people who have no dreams.

And I’m further comforted by remembering that all writers struggle.

Nathanial Hawthorne reportedly destroyed countless manuscripts in fits of despair.

Emily Bronte wrote in July 1836:  “I am more terrifically and idiotically and brutally STUPID than ever I was in the whole course of my incarnate existance.”

Faulkner was certain The Sound and the Fury would never be published due to its experimental tone.

Richard Adam’s classic tale of rabbits searching for a new home on Watership Down was rejected 13 times.  Adults wouldn’t want to read about bunnies.  Or so agents gathered.

No matter what century- writers struggle.  They struggle with the first draft.  With the countless revisions.  And then they struggle with finding that initial agent who believes.

So fellow writers, when you get down, just remember every single writer on this planet- from the immortals to the midlist to the still unknowns- have gone, and are going, through the same thing.

And the ultimate victory is so worth it.

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28 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. great post! I love it too: I always dread getting to the revision/rewrite stage (and they always go hand in hand for me), but once I’m in it I really enjoy it. especially after getting feedback: some freakish holdover from being that geeky kid in college English who loved the assignments, I guess.

    damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead!

  2. Awesome post, one I needed to hear at this perfectly exact moment. Thank you for it.

    It made me feel better, too. : )

    I guess if one can’t follow the rules, then write the rules. Just write them well. That’s my new motto.

    When I think too much about the strictures or rules, my writing suffers, and I become like a centipede tripping over its feet.

    I think I’m going to leave the scary writer campfire stories alone for now and just write, and hope, like you wrote, Tasha, that I will find that agent who believes.

    Em

  3. “Nathanial Hawthorne reportedly destroyed countless manuscripts in fits of despair.”

    And that was when destroying a manuscript really meant something. If I wanted to destroy a manuscript in a fit of despair, I’d have to (1) shred the hardcopy (or hardcopies, if I had more than one printout), (2) delete the working file, (3) empty the trash folder, (4) delete all of my emailed backups out of my email inbox, (5) go to gmail and delete them out of my gmail folder, and then (6) wipe the backups off my USB drive. I think my despair would give up in exhaustion somewhere around step 3.

    Hang in there, GypsyS. We all go through it — some of us are going through it right now — but you’ll finish it in time, and whatever it ends up being, you can always move on to the next novel.

    Murder your darlings, we’re all told, and that’s what we have to do when we revise. Good luck.

  4. Ugh. I rewrite the first few pages over and over on each draft. And I still second-guess even after they’re out circulating. Thanks for the tidbits on other writers! I love reading that stuff!

    And I’m digging the snow in here…

  5. Hey Amy,

    Thanks! Going through Holly’s One-Pass really made me see all the changes I need to make on this present draft.

    It’s a struggle, but I’ll get there.

    I was the geek in school who looked forward to finding out what the next reading assignment was. 🙂

  6. Hey Em,

    Thanks!

    I hear you about not listening to scary writer campfire stories. NaNo went so great for me because I really limited my time online. But now that I started the revision process, I started reading all these agent blogs. And seeing their statistics of what they take is so disheartening. Of course, it’s important to know and understand the industry. But too much advice is crippling. Makes ya doubt every word you write.

    So from here on out, as I finish this current draft, I’m not perusing any more agent or publishers sites. Just going to finish it and *then* worry about finding the agent who shares my taste and view.

  7. Thanks Unfocused Me,

    Very true observation. To think Hawthorne wrote all those hundreds of pages in longhand!

    For me, it’s not about killing my darlings. I’m good at letting things go that don’t fit.

    My problem right now is the actual writing. (versus story). Making sure everything flows. Strongest word choices. Sharp imagery. Grammar. Commas.

    I’m realistic. I know not every agent/publisher/reader is going to like my thing. Tastes are so varied. But, *I* need to be pleased with it. And thus comes all this frustration. Because what’s on paper doesn’t yet match the imagery in my head.

    Getting there…

  8. Hey Rachel,

    Good to hear from you. I hope you’re loving your new home.

    Yup. The second guessing…I think after the next tweak, I’m going to send my first few chapters out to my betas. Fresh, objective eyes probably would be very helpful now.

  9. Hello Astro Sister 😉

    Don’t let the agents scare you. Just remember that most of what they receive is actual garbage, from people who can barely spell, have a limited grasp of grammar, and get tossed before the agent gets past a badly misspelled title page. I’ve been on a couple of online writer’s groups and have seen firsthand some of the stuff people write and send to agents. Really, it’s very encouraging! They send manuscripts for fantasy novels to agents who only handle non-fiction, and things like that. Just by reading your blog and chatting here I have no doubt you’ll get there, you are far beyond the madding crowd to start with!

  10. Good luck with the revising Gypsy! I don’t murder my darlings so much as keep them tied up and gagged in the cellar. Never know when you might need to use the info/idea/particular sentence again, so like Unfocused Me, it would actually take me a few days to really destroy my work a la Hawthornian style.

  11. Hey Astro Sis!

    Thank you so much! ((hugs)) You just cheered me right up. I know what you’re talking about. I’ve seen those works, too.

    I think, more than anything, I’ve been worried because my opening is subtle. I don’t have an opening paragraph that grabs the reader by the throat. Those sort of openings are fine for thrillers, etc.. but not for my ghost novel. I want to entice. Lure.

    I have to stay true to what fits my type of novel and my vision. I just started rereading “The Thirteenth Tale” which was Diane Setterfield’s debut novel in 2007. The opening sentence? “It was November.” That’s an evening quieter opening than mine! And it sure didn’t hurt her. So yeah, I’m feeling lots better.

    If some agent doesn’t like the fact that my novel begins with two tiny sentences of setting that set the mood and atmosphere- well, I’ll find an agent who does like it. I mean, two sentences. I can’t believe how much I’ve been stressing over that fact. It’s not like five pages of describing the weather.

    You’ll make it too. Quite sure of that. 🙂

  12. Hey Nancy,

    Thanks!

    I really appreciate all the support and encouragement from you and everyone.

    I do the same thing with my darlings. I have a file where I keep sentences, paragraphs, etc that I love but didn’t fit in a particular work. I figure they’re waiting for the right one. 🙂

  13. Editing/revision can be a tough row to hoe all right, but it sounds like you’ve got a great attitude and the right approach, Gypsy. *hugs*

    I had to laugh out loud at the E.D. quote; I’m struggling with that a little myself at the moment, and while I don’t have even a fingertip’s worth of talent next to her, it certainly does help to realize even the greats struggled from time to time as well.

    Great post!

  14. Unfocused Me wrote:

    “And that was when destroying a manuscript really meant something. If I wanted to destroy a manuscript in a fit of despair, I’d have to (1) shred the hardcopy (or hardcopies, if I had more than one printout), (2) delete the working file, (3) empty the trash folder, (4) delete all of my emailed backups out of my email inbox, (5) go to gmail and delete them out of my gmail folder, and then (6) wipe the backups off my USB drive. I think my despair would give up in exhaustion somewhere around step 3.”

    Just had to say, awesome writing! You need to make that paragraph into a blog post. Made me literally laugh out loud. : ) So true! It’s the chains of technology, forged file by file! Made me think of Jacob Marley’s ghost, only our chains are kinder.

    Tasha — you can so do it, you’re a really good writer. You have the magic. I can’t wait ’till the day you post it’s finished.

    Just keep at it, as you are, and if you get too stuck, walk away and then come back. Time helps germinate bridges that close the distance between what’s in your head, and what’s on paper.

    Em (one of your biggest fans, with pom pons and everything! : )

  15. I think life must be rather dull for people who have no dreams.

    You said it! I love having something I care this much about!

  16. Hey Jen!

    *hugs ya back*

    I love E.B.’s comment, too. And to think, she was so frustrated with herself that she wrote, “stupid” in all caps. Pretty funny, that.
    I’m sure if someone back then told her she’d go on to write one of the most famous books ever- she would have laughed in their face, whistled for her dog, and stomped out to roam her beloved Moors.

  17. Morning Em, 🙂

    1. I agree- that would make a great and hilarious blog post for Unfocused Me.

    2. Thank you!!! (((hugs)))

    I have my pom poms out for you and everyone else here. It’s wonderful to have found such wonderful, encouraging people.

    Go all of us!!!!

  18. Hey Colby!

    Thanks!

    Passion is such a wonderful thing. Makes everything more intense, more alive.

  19. Thanks for that!

    I love that quote by Emily Bronte–people don’t talk so eloquently now 😛

  20. Gypsy, my dear, never, ever give up. But give yourself a break, from time to time. Sometimes stuff needs to simmer for a a few days, weeks, months, before it’s ready for a polish. It’s not neglect, your subconscious will be on it. Have you considered tackling something else and just letting those first few pages settle a bit?

    And please, please don’t start writing for the Agents. Write what you love, write what is RIGHT, for God’s sake. Most of my favorite books don’t hammer you over the head with the first sentence. I think A Wrinkle in Time starts with something perilously close to “It was a dark and stormy night,” doesn’t it?

  21. “The day broke gray and dull.”

    –First line from Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham.

  22. Dara,

    Emily B. rocks in every way. 🙂

  23. Hey Uppington,

    Thanks so much for your encouragement. But never fear. I’m WAY too independent minded to EVER write for agents. (my parents and some annoyed former bosses can attest to my stubbornness when it comes to things I believe in 🙂 )

    When it comes to agents, my only objective is to make my work as well-written as possible. But my story is my story.

    Your advice about letting things rest is a really good one. However, in my case, my heart and instincts are telling me it’s time to finish this thing. I’m feeling quite optimistic now.

    thanks again! 🙂

  24. Hey D D!

    Good one.

    To think of all the great novels we’d be without.

  25. Hey Tasha,

    That was an inspiring post, and it came at a good time of the year. I’m bracing myself to break up with an agent who is a good agent but not right for my book. So even after we find an agent who says YES, things aren’t always easy. And sometimes we have to pick ourselves up, try not to kick ourselves too hard (Emily, I know exactly how you felt!), and start again.

    When you said, “I think life must be rather dull for people who have no dreams”, I realized that another way to put it was that life must be rather dull for people who have everything. Who have no aspirations and nothing to work towards. At least I’ve got that. 🙂

    Thanks again.

  26. Right now I can’t stop writing! I’m hooked on my NaNo sequel, which of course means that my current WIP is still in the back burner. I never thought juggling multiple projects would be this hard. 🙂

  27. Hey Marian,

    I’m sorry things didn’t work out with this particular agent. But I feel positive you’ll find the right person. One agent, (can’t recall who) stated an author shouldn’t be too quick on accepting an agent’s offer of representation. They mentioned the fact that too often authors are so excited to get an offer they don’t seriously research the said agent. An agent can be wonderful but not be the correct fit for *you*.

    And I’m really glad my post cheered you up a bit. 🙂

  28. Hey Ralfast,

    Me too! I’m totally writing obsessed right now.

    Hope yours is going well. 🙂


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