My NaNoWriMo Writers Group has been working on revision since the first of the year – it’s tough, I won’t lie. We spend all of November telling ourselves how wonderful we are, experiencing that thrill of creating something new, in December we shelve those 50,000 words and feel awesome and accomplished.
And then comes January.
We all have to pull out these horrible first drafts, re-read them and resist the urge to set them on fire. But for some weird, unexplainable reason, we persist. We tear apart our plots and kill off useless characters. We study story structure and outline new chapters. We polish things until we finally let another writer have a peek at it.
And then we start all over.
This is not how I thought a novel was born. I thought you wrote it, you spell-checked it and you sent it off to a publisher who then fixed all the stuff you couldn’t. I thought after writing that glorious first draft, the limo would pick me up at my door and I’d speed off to the Oprah show or a fancy bookseller in New York City. And there’d be cake.
Not only is there no cake, but I’ve now gone from this perky NaNo-Cheerleader to Gordon Ramsey screaming at you to break those eggs or there will never be any cake. Of course, we can lie and convince ourselves that this novel is just fine the way it is, that any agent would jump at the chance to represent us – but we know the truth. We all know that good and good enough are two different things.
I had the opportunity this week to see a rejected manuscript. From plot holes to improper dialogue tags, the editor explained that the biggest issue was that the writer refused to discuss the work and she thought it was good enough. And that’s when I realized that revision is like poking toothpicks into our half-baked cake. It’s painful and annoying but there’s just no other way to tell if it’s done.
If you’re writing fiction or poetry or essays – find yourself some fellow bakers. Don’t try to break all those eggs alone. The Racine/Kenosha area has several writing groups for all sorts of needs. There’s no need to send your manuscript off half-baked!