Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 175 of 365: You're Done When the Gorilla Says You're Done

I have about 20 days to get my first manuscript ready for a submission deadline. To be frank, I felt like puking the day they released the submission dates. But the good type of puking, like, "Holy shit I'm going skydiving" puking.

I made a goal of one chapter a day until then. And I had been doing fairly well with that pace (albeit breakneck, as most of my chapters are at least 20 pages long and I've decided that I now hate how I had worded EVERYTHING), until I reached a scene that I originally enjoyed, but now realize it is weak and unbelievable as all getout.

So today is "rewrite this one particular scene" day. Given that I have been rewriting practically every sentence so far, this is more than moderately frustrating. The only positive is that it makes me thankful that no agent ever signed on for this particular project, as I would've been so embarassed to have my previous draft as an actual book.

I know I reference this quote a lot, but I always think about what Craig Ferguson said: Writing a book is like having sex with a gorilla. You're done when the gorilla says you're done.

I finished the first draft of this manuscript when I was 23. That was nearly 5 years ago. I have been on the edit train since then, even as I wrote/finished my second manuscript, even as I started writing my third (which is still only 2/3rds of the way done, but, eh, I'll worry about it after I submit my first manuscript). I have rewritten entire chapters, only to rewrite them again. I've made new characters, axed old characters, playing musical chairs with bits of dialogue, only to change my mind yet again. And all in an effort to submit it to a contest where I might not even make it past the first round.

But that's the beauty of writing. As my old professor once warned us, "You better love rewriting 100 times more than actually writing, because that's what you can expect if you ever try to publish your work."

As I see it, I'm appreciative of the constant edits. It means that I'm growing as a writer. I'm evolving away from the flowery bullshit that all writers seem to pick up in college ("but it's poetic and witty!" "no, it's obtuse and annoying."). I'd be worried if I looked at an old piece of work and went, "Yup! Perfect in every way! I would never want to make an edit to this!" That would mean that I've plateaued as a writer.

(This is part of the reason why they say to shelve your writing and work on something else before going back to edit it.)

So I've got an interesting three weeks ahead of me (for more reasons than just this book, but that's for another time). My fingers are crossed, but my expectations are realistic. And, really, that's all you can do -- until you have to start typing again, at which point it's probably for the best if you uncross said fingers.

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