Is This Normal?

I feel stagnant. This whole revision thing. Geez. Is it normal to feel like it’s not going anywhere? Like I’ve rewritten some parts so many times I don’t think I will ever ever finish?

What about the fear that the book is going to be twice as LONG when you’re done, even though you set out to cut copious quantities and make it SHORTER?

What about the fear that you will cut so much away you will have only a thin, anemic volume left at the end?

What about the fear that this will take ten years and maybe never ever be done?

Should I feel like I’m making progress? How do you measure progress during revisions anyway?

I can’t seem to find any good writing on this topic. Everything seems geared to the author who doesn’t know their book needs revising.

I know. Oh, I know. Believe me I KNOW. I can see that it needs revising.

What I don’t know is which bit to do next. Whether to plow forward and get deeper into the plot, or to go backward and rewrite earlier chapters so that the later chapters will make sense, or whether to go ahead and write the later chapters knowing that I will go back and change the earlier chapters later. When to go forward, when to step back. How to avoid getting so bogged down that the novel never gets done.

Whether to continue soliciting feedback from my family or to stop letting them read. This is a toughie. The feedback from Carey has undeniably made my early chapters much much tighter and better, and set them up for better flow later. The plot is better, the characters are better. But after every round of feedback, it’s hard to get started again. There is so much to do. Am I better off blarfing out a full set of revisions and then reincorporating feedback all at once later? Or incorporating it a section at a time, crafting it as I go?

Who knows. Nobody. This goes back to how lonely this whole writing this is. Nobody can tell me what to do next. I mean, guidelines, and rules of thumb, and basic principles, and all that. Yeah, I get that. But nobody can tell me: Work on this chapter now. Fix these problems next. Write that new scene right now.

K, novelist ¬†friends. Is this normal? Or a sign that I may as well throw up my hands and quit. ;) (Just kidding. I’m not quitting. Not even if you say so.)

From Project Mayhem: Great little blog on writing middle grade fiction, check it out by clicking on the image.

7 thoughts on “Is This Normal?

  1. It took me 4 years to “finish” my first novel, so, yes, it’s normal to feel like it will never end. Although the only way I got through that is thinking I would be done in the next 6 months. (This is why it’s hard for me to start anything now. I’m all too aware of the lies, both on the business end and in my head.) But… be encouraged by that! Somehow. Geez.

    How do you measure progress during revisions anyway?

    The thing that you just did you don’t have to do anymore. Progress.

    Feedback is tough because it killed my last book. I have a love/hate relationship with feedback. Even if people mean well, their vision gets muddled up with yours. And yet sometimes a kind word is the only thing keeping you from throwing in the towel. Catch 22.

    • Oh. My gosh. Could you please be a little MORE depressing, because I’m not sure I’m quite ready to shoot myself yet. ;)

      I think I get what you’re saying about it being harder to start the next one. I’ve already been thinking about that. How excited I was at how quickly I made progress on my novel with only an hour a day to work on it. And then how much longer revisions are taking than I expected. Daunting.

      At least I’m not alone, though. That’s something. A big something. Thank you.

      • Ugh, I just commented down there and here’s another comment.

        I don’t know anyone who took as long as I did to finish novels. No. One. I hear about these people, but I’ve never actually met them. And I would put $200 on you being fast. Then again, what would be the point, because the banker would only give it 1:1 odds. He’s no fool either.

        • Aw, thanks for the vote of confidence. I hope you’re right. We’ll see. I also hope you know that I prefer your honest even-when-brutal comments to anything sugar coated ever. Which is why, even though I pretended to threaten to shoot myself, I am truly grateful for your first comment. :) And here’s hoping it really doesn’t take me 4 years!

  2. I’ve been following your blog for about a week now, and as a fellow writer, I can say with confidence that everything you’ve felt up til now, all of your reservations, worries, the loneliness, all of that is normal.

    The revision stage is by far (in my opinion) the toughest stage of the writing process. It tests you, breaks you, more so than the first draft. For me, there is so much anxiety when it comes to revisions: are my characters fleshed out, does the plot make sense, are there any plot holes? I don’t want to release this just for someone to point out things that I’ve missed.

    All I can really say is to keep pushing forward. Same as the first draft stage, DO NOT look back. DO. NOT. Push forward with your current revisions, and when that is done, you read through it again. Second draft. Third draft. I find it’s less daunting that way.

    And please continue to let your family read. There is no greater asset to a writer than someone who is willing to read and offer constructive feedback. Without Carey and your kids, you have no idea if you’re coming or going. You said so yourself, your earlier chapters are tighter because of Carey’s help. :)

    Don’t stress. Step back for a couple of days. If you haven’t already, go see a couple of shows, read some other books. Clear your head.

    You can do it. <3

    • Thank you so much for this! All of it. Very encouraging and helpful.

      I really thought I was going to LOVE revisions. In smaller forms, I do love it. I love that feeling of having the core of it, the meat of it, already on the page, and my job now is to mold it, move it, reshape it, and carve it into just the right thing.

      I’ve never done it with something this huge, though, so… yeah. Really, really hard.

      Of course, drafting was hard too. When I scan through my entries from the drafting period, I’m reminded how much of the time I was worried, drained, and frustrated.

      So. Push forward. Keep moving forward. I’ve made tons of notes on the printed version of the revised chapters so far. That will suffice while I move on to the next section. Then the next.

      Thank you.

      • For me, the best part of writing comes in the late revision process. Then you can see you’ve got something. I have a feeling you’ll be like that too. I can’t remember who said it, but “I write to have written” is so true.

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