Thinking Things Through By Writing to You

June 30, 2009 at 7:37 am (Uncategorized)

In typical fashion I completely overdid it with a stupidly over-committed busy weekend, and then I wiped out at about, oh, 4:30 Sunday afternoon. And it was a pretty big crash and burn. Clearly I did not blog yesterday, but what you don’t know is that I didn’t even turn on the computer. It sat on my desk, closed, silent, unattended, until late this afternoon. Even now I’m feeling a little unsteady about committing to an entire post, because the truth is I’m still totally exhausted, and yesterday I barely made it out of bed. One of my friends, S, warned me and warned me and warned me that general anaesthetics can really take it out of you, and she begged and begged and begged me not to overdo it during the weekend, but did I listen? No! Of course not! Stand back, world, I’m CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE!!!!!!! Except now I’m Captain Dribble. I can hardly keep my eyes open, let alone observe appropriate table manners. I’m tired.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t had a coffee since Saturday morning. Is it possible this is some kind of caffeine withdrawal, and not related to last week’s procedure at all? Or maybe it’s my Volunteer Reader feedback, which I received Friday. Maybe my exhaustion is really related to acute feelings of anxiety and failure, which I definitely feel. I am also now anticipating the next draft, which is a pretty dread thought all on its own. VR did a mind-bending assessment of the MS for me, really did the most phenomenal and humbling job – so I am also sick with desperation at the warped lack of reciprocity characterising this entire exchange (is it even an exchange when I can’t for the life of me figure out what was in it for VR?) – but it was so, um, detailed, and the magnitude so great, that it fairly wiped me off the map for the last 96 hours. I’ve kind of clawed my way back to the edge of existence now, but I feel like I’m half dangling from a rusted rooftop pipe and there’s still a suspenseful question mark over whether or not I’ll make it.

Cue ad break.

Okay, so the answer is basically no, my manuscript is not agent ready. Not that VR said that specifically, but as far as I’m concerned there was really no need. Because I don’t want to send it out to an agent or a publisher if I know there’s still things I can do to make it better. I think it’s one thing to get tired of it or bored with it or to really feel you’re done, but I knew VR would have intelligent critique to offer me, so I was in some sense already reconciled to the idea of another draft. I knew there would be things I could do to make it better. I guess I’m only a flattened little pancake on the pavement now because I didn’t accurately anticipate the distance from the rooftop to the ground. It turns out they’re quite far apart.

When Darkling C read it, and loved it, she did say it really took off for her after the first seven chapters. I said to her at the time that it really worried me it took that long, and as I said to someone else (I thought it was C, or maybe it was Llew, but now that C has said it wasn’t her I can’t remember), I’ve wondered several times since then what would happen if I lobbed off the first 80 pages. Now, VR hasn’t suggested anything quite that dramatic, but it’s not far off, and there’s many other considerations besides that are very sound. Just good things for me to think about. I’ve been challenged to consider them, so consider them carefully I shall.

I think there’s a major difference between actually getting too much feedback from too many people and simply deciding you’ve had too much. Everyone is different on this score as with every other part of the process. For me, I like reader feedback. As I’ve said before, my manuscript has benefited from it to an extraordinary degree. The degree of feedback I’ve received has also prevented my sending it widespread into the world of publishing before it is ready to go. The intense, urgent desire to send it to publishers and agents that really consumed me in the early days has all but entirely left me. Of course I want it to go out, of course I want it to be picked up, but I realise now that mostly what I was so driven by was not ambition but a need for feedback. I need it. Maybe not all writers do, but that vacuum, that awful nothingness of having no one to send it to and no one to read it, that’s what was really diabolical and painful to me.

Now that I’ve had several rounds of excellent feedback from people who do totally know what they’re talking about, and whose opinions I respect completely, I just don’t feel that same burning itch to send it out – an ailment that is also a kind of burden. I find more and more – now I have access to these wondrous people who are prepared to read my work – that I feel quite at peace with the process, just the doing, and that there’s enormous, verging on existential joy for me in that and that alone. So my thoughts, after the initial sting, have begun to settle, and I realise without any temper that I still have a lot of work to do. And that’s okay. These things take time, more than I knew. And perhaps this is the way I finally learn patience.

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8 Comments

  1. charlotteotter said,

    Glad to hear you’ve had more good feedback. As for both the joy and the patience, I know about them. I am teaching myself patience with this second draft, as I am busy rewriting it in the first person.

    Good luck as you progress with your manuscript!

  2. Grad said,

    I’m happy you’ve removed the self-inficted pressure. A more relaxed Doctordi can only be good for you and for the work itself. I was wondering why you hadn’t posted for awhile. I do so enjoy what you have to say; I’m glad you’re back.

  3. Lilian Nattel said,

    Just take your time to fully recover. I’m glad that you’ve come around to being okay with the next draft. Let me pass on something that I’ve only just learned after writing for a long, long, long time. I find that the difficult disappointment comes with believing (or hoping) that something is ready, only to find out it needs real work, not just tweaking. So I’ve just started trying to stay with what is now, and seeing it as a stage, without defining what that stage is, and being open to whatever is next. (I’ll let you know how it works out!)

  4. doctordi said,

    Thanks, Charlotte, and I’ve been so pleased to see over at Charlotte’s Web that it’s all going well for you with the redrafting, especially now The Voice has arrived and is making her presence felt! It’s an exciting time for you – and a productive one from the sound of it.

    Grad, I honestly came around to that conclusion as I was writing the post. It’s such a funny thing, but sometimes articulating my thoughts in this forum is very therapeutic and clarifying for me, and it means the world to me that people like you are here allowing and encouraging that to occur. It wouldn’t be nearly so powerful or effective a means of getting my shit together were there no compassionate and cheery voices like yours waiting on the other end.

    Lilian, that’s exactly it, I think. I was totally ready for tweaking, but this is much more substantial. And these structural, narrative arc problems that have dogged me the entire time are really still the primary issue. Unfortunately that’s a major issue, not a scene spruce here and there. It’s really fundamental, and I haven’t succeeded yet in fixing it. It’s much better than it was, though, and hopefully it will be better again once I go back and take THIS version apart page by page before putting it back together. But yes, while I think goals and deadlines can be very motivating, I also think it can be damaging to associate these many necessary phases (necessary for me, anyway) with failure. I need to let that go and understand this will take as long as it takes. Thank you so much for your perspective and experience; as VR reader said (like you an old hand at this), the one comfort is knowing that all writers go through it. There’s solidarity in that, as well as a good reality check. And yes, do let me know how that works out for you!!

  5. Simonne said,

    I hope you’re laid back with your fluffy slippers on, tea in hand, RELAXING! Coffee withdrawals do amazing thing to me, btw, so I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if that’s effecting you too.
    We are SO at the same place with our manuscripts, you and I. The redrafting I need to do is so fundamental that the whole process has just been too daunting. And mine is the opposite problem. It starts with a bang and draws the reader in, and then ‘fails to deliver’ as something I was just longlisted for informed me. Oh the shame of ‘failing to deliver’!!
    Take care of you.

  6. litlove said,

    Well, first of all, hugs to you. Reading your post is interesting – sounds like the busy weekend might have been a bit of manic distraction, as the concerns about the ms do seem uppermost, and thus likely to feed into the fatigue. Oh believe you me, I do know all about that. Big emotions often masquerade as bone-crunching tiredness. It kills me sometimes just how much we have to expose the vulnerable parts of ourselves in writing. There’s always that part of writing that feels like it’s a gift to the world, and it’s hard to swallow when the world says, hmm, I’m not sure that gift is good enough for me, yet. It’s a good idea to take time off for a bit. Have a break, do other, self-cherishing things. Quality of writing often depends on quality of mind set, and to be in the wrong place in our heads is not the way to draft that really tricky couple of pages.

    What I do suspect is that if there’s anything wrong with your novel, it’s purely technical. You have an amazing voice, so vibrant, so flexible, so funny. So you might have a bit of chopping and inserting to do – well ha, that’s far less trouble than having to attend to what you’re doing at the level of each sentence. Lie on a sofa and dream about shapeliness in fiction. what you need to fix will come to you in no time.

  7. Pete said,

    Glad to hear you’re back and I agree, take it easy for a bit. Lots of anxiety is understandable (MS and op) and I was surprised at how long I was “out of it” after my general. We’re talking about two whole weeks. I think the anxiety is good if you’re guided by it rather than fighting it and defending against it. Anyway, best of luck with the next stage. Visualisation sounds good.

  8. doctordi said,

    Simonne, if it makes you feel any better, I now know beyond any doubt that I also have to rewrite my ending!! I have had this nagging suspicion about it for quite a long time… everything else has changed SO much, and what? The ending is the same? That just didn’t feel right to me, it felt like cheating or trying to get away with something, but VR was the first person, as I described it to the Darklings, to locate the bruise and press down hard on it. In some ways it was a HUGE relief, to be perfectly honest. I’d nursed this awful doubt about the ending for a long time, but just thought that maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought, since no one was picking me up on it… But no. I’ve finally been picked up on it. And I’m strangely glad. It’s great failing to deliver at the same time!

    Ah, Litlove, it’s funny how perceptive you are about me sometimes when we’ve never even looked each other in the eye. Yep, I think I definitely threw myself into the weekend to run away from VR’s astute and crushing and careful and honest appraisal. It was so overwhelming and so true and so magnifying I just fled the building like it was on fire. Yes! That unwanted gift analogy is so spot on! Like a rejected potato print from a kindergarten child. Exactly that crushing and bewildering. But thank you – thank you, thank you – for the lovely things you say about my writing voice. It’s a good thing it’s not my speaking voice that’s required, because I choked up a bit reading that. Yeah, VR called it the ‘mechanical stage,’ and I think technical and mechanical are close buddies, some may even say identical twins. I actually think it’s time to draw on some of what I learned writing my thesis. That became so highly technical at a certain point, and hey, I lived through that!!

    Pete, thanks for the perspective on the general… Today is the first morning I have woken up at a normal hour feeling pretty okay. I’ve been really off. I think there’s a few issues jumbled together, but still, I generally bounce back faster than this, so I can’t help feeling the general has played a part in my catatonia. It’s now a week since the procedure, so maybe this is just the time it takes to get over it. Regardless, I am feeling close to normal now, and I might even reward myself with a coffee since I still haven’t had one since Saturday morning. Thanks for the good luck, too, I am snatching it off the screen and putting it in my back pocket. You guys help me so much, I just want you all to know that.

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