Staring Down the Barrel

April 23, 2008 at 3:38 am (Uncategorized)

I don’t think I’ve told you all this before now, but the fourth draft of my MS is currently with the Lynk MS Assessment Service for a second round of critique. I’ve got another week and a half to wait for the report, and I don’t mind saying it is proving excruciating. The longest few weeks of my life. What will my assessor (the same one who got it after the third draft) say this time? What won’t be working? What will remain for me to do? I have no idea what she – I know only that it’s a she – will say. I do know that I know, even if no one else does, that I threw myself into the latest rewrite like a woman possessed. Actually, I think I am a woman possessed. I keep wondering what my assessor does for a living, for I don’t imagine MS assessment is her full-time gig. I keep wondering if, in fact, she’s any better qualified than me. That’s one of the oddities of this process: I’m eminently qualified to critique a manuscript – I have a book review out in a national magazine right now – just not necessarily my own. I can’t see all its faults clearly, although if I’m to be entirely honest, and I suspect you trust me to be, then I must say I do see most of them. My woefully immature response to the gaping flaws in my MS was initially simply hoping like hell no one else would notice. Bugger and damnation; they always, always did. So I owned up to them, in the end, or at least I feel like I did. That’s what makes this second assessment so interesting: where have I failed now?

In the interim, I am (rather optimistically) turning my mind to my next project. Since 2006 I’ve started three other manuscripts, and I also have several screenplay ideas – some of them quite well fleshed out, at least in my head. So it seems quite important to me that I consider carefully what my next move will be, since any way I decide, I am staring down the barrel at about the next two years of my life, once research and redrafting and redrafting and redrafting are taken into account.

(do you know I love the fact that I just write this blog and put it straight up? Oh the glorious freedom! Sometimes there are typos I don’t see until it’s posted, which I then correct, but not before some of you keen ‘stream’ type people have already been sent the original version, mistakes and all – that’s how free and easy it is. I love it. It’s such a load off not having to rewrite it over and over again).

I wonder what you think I should do. I’ve been talking to my mate Ruben about free content and the unpublished fiction writer (hello, Rubes), and it makes me think that perhaps he’s right, and I should consider posting the beginnings of some of my fiction on this site. I’m not sure I’d like to open it up to a public savaging (it’s okay, Miriam, it’s safe to look now), but there may be a way for me to share something of what I’m doing with you… if you’re interested, that is. I am still mulling all this over, but it’s part of what I see as I stare down the barrel, wondering how to deal with the fact that it’s fully loaded no matter which way I turn.



  1. Rosy said,

    You know Di, I think you have to get a little zen about sending these things off, whether it’s to a publisher or a service. Once it leaves your hands, you must truly let it go. If you work yourself into a froth of impatience, you are going to drive yourself bananas. You know, all the stuff about “The tighter you squeeze, the less you have” yadda yadda yadda.

    Anyway I’d love to read some of your fiction. LOVE to!

  2. doctordi said,

    I drink too much coffee for Zen. Also I’m a Virgo. I try, and I try and I try and I try, Rosy, honestly I do, to be that person, but it’s not me. If you ask me, the world is divided into two basic types of people: slow walkers and brisk walkers. Take a guess which I am.

    Okay, I’ll think about it… and how to structure it so I don’t get pulverised and demoralised by the whole experience. I haven’t figured that out yet.

  3. Miriam said,

    Have you thought about creating a locked bit of the blog, so you could just grant access to folks you trust not to engage in savaging behaviour?

  4. doctordi said,

    I hadn’t, Miriam, no (although I should have, since my sister has a locked blog), but I certainly will now… I guess I am thinking about the short story route, but at this point I don’t think any of my short stories are particularly good… The MS has enjoyed A LOT more attention from me and shows the benefits of A LOT more work, so it’s understandably in much better shape. I think the basic thing stopping me right now is my sense that I don’t have anything else I’m actually even remotely happy with. So for the time being, I might just try to rectify that situation first, and then go from there. Thanks!

  5. doctordi said,

    Speaking of a loaded gun… I just got my MS assessment back 8 days early. Now I feel like I could pull out all my hair and smash every window in the house.

    It’s not that it’s a bad assessment – it’s not – and it’s certainly not that it won’t be of great use to me. No, it’s that there’s evidently still so much to do – more than I’d realised, more than I’d hoped. It’s that the f-i-f-t-h draft – or fourth redraft, whichever sounds more palatable to you – will be yet another full rewrite. Not cosmetic. Major surgery. And I know and remember painfully well that it took literally countless drafts before my supervisor thought my PhD thesis was passable, so I know this lesson, I do, but I keep being surprised by how far short of the mark I keep falling. It doesn’t feel like I’m holding on to the side of the building, it feels like I’ve missed the guttering, and am on the way down. So with that cheery thought, I think I’ll just opt to leave the blog as it is for the time being! Don’t worry, I’ll bounce back. I’m just allowing myself the bitter taste of further disappointment in myself, and then I’ll move on.

    Right. I’ve been for a quick half-hour run in the soaking rain, and I feel better. I have Louise Doughty’s encouraging words to hand: “for many new writers three years [is] probably a more realistic estimate” of the time required to write a novel. Okay. I started this in December 2006. I’m 18 months in. Good grief – don’t tell me I’ve reached nothing more than the halfway mark! Well, so be it. I’m going to put the assessment to one side until Monday, when I begin again to begin again.

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