Saturday, February 18, 2012

On Not Being Able to See the Trees, Let Alone the Forest.

I've been working through a Beta Reader's comments for the last month. And I am stuck.

In the past, I've often put aside readers' comments when they've suggested changes that felt too big. I'd think, "Perhaps what they are suggesting would work, but I'd rather do that sort of major reworking on the suggestion of an editor/agent. I'll get this as good as I can get it within my own vision, send it off, and if an agent is interested but wants a shift in direction, I'll more seriously contemplate major rewriting then." Sometimes I worry I'm just being lazy: "ACK, change too big, take too long, just put that one aside." But being more charitable, I also think I'm following the inner voice of the story when I accept or reject my peers' suggestions.

And why I'm feeling particularly lost at the moment is that my Beta Reader put her finger on that inner voice and pushed until it was screaming at me: "Lisa, there is a major problem here! I've been trying to tell you this, why haven't you been listening? The lovely and very, very smart Sofia agrees! Now will you believe already?" And what Sofia and Inner Voice are suggesting scares me, because I don't yet know how to fix the problem. The story is so written into my cells, that I don't know what it becomes if I completely rewrite the middle section. A crisis of imagination. A serious crisis of imagination.

I haven't found my way through, but I figure the only way to find my way through is by writing. Right now I'm trying a medium fix - keeping the middle section close to what it has been, but trimming it down, mainly by merging and deleting characters. But I keep getting stuck by not knowing if what I'm doing is for the good. And that is a new experience for me. Whenever I've taken on Scribblerati suggestions, I can sense as I'm writing that I'm taking the piece to a new level. It's a tangible feeling of rightness. And I haven't been feeling that over the past month and so I have no idea whether my changes have any value. (Thank the stars and the moon for my writing program, Scrivener, which allows for very easily creating new versions and reverting back to older ones. I keep myself going by telling myself I'm just playing - these changes don't have to be real ones, Lisa, we're just having a bit of fun here and experimenting.)

It's odd. Trying to trust the Inner Voice, and feeling at the very same time that I've completely lost my ability to self-evaluate my writing.

Perhaps it's time to follow in Shawn's footsteps and start from scratch...Oof.


Mark Teats said...

Hi Lisa,
Hang in there!
I'm in revision-land, too, although right now I am letting my manuscript for BLACKHEART sit and percolate for a while before I come back to it after the last round of group feedback.

I am in total agreement with you on the ability--or lack thereof--sometimes to evaluate my own work. After working with it so long I think it is easy to lose perspective. My solution is to walk away/let it sit for a while. When I come back to it some things often make themselves clearer and I have some new ideas to try with the story. Does Lisa deserve a Beryl-free vacation? I think you do :-)

I also wonder, do you agree with what your beta-readers say or not? (It's your story after all.) Your thought of letting an agent decide (they'll have changes they might want you to make to your book) is where I tend to fall, too, at some point.

And also, I wonder what an agent or editor might say about your book in its current form. I read an article recently (sadly, couldn't find it or I'd have linked it here) about an author who kept messing with their manuscript and was going to do some major changes. They decided instead to show it to an editor--who loved it and bought the book, as is. The author said if they had made those changes maybe the book wouldn't have sold. It is a hard line to walk--knowing when to keep editing and knowing when to call your book "done" and send it out.

Jon said...

Mark is right, take a break.

The writing/editing process is like you are slowly moving closer and closer and closer to a painting, after awhile you have to back away or the painting becomes nothing but blobs and colors.

So put it down for awhile and read a book or work on a short story. Brainstorm some Post-Beryl writing ideas. Work on your Query letter. Oh, hey... you could work on your critiques for the next Scribblerati meet. I hear that this current batch is a real humdinger...

Anyway, sometimes you have to recharge for a little bit, put it on the backburner of your mind, let it simmer, and go stretch your creative legs some other way for awhile.

Good luck!

Shawn Enderlin said...

Don't wait for an agent.

I could go on at length about how changes in the industry are forcing agents to take less chances, or I could regale you with stories about self-published authors who were turned down by agents for years and are now selling those books for major $$, but it sounds like the real reason to not wait is already inside of you.

The decision to rewrite my book from scratch did not come easy, but I've never once regretted it. In one draft I took a story that didn't work at all to one that, while still rough around the edges, had promise. I know you could do the same.

As for what Jon and Mark said - I agree - take a break. After getting all of the groups comments on TKTG, I took two months off to write Witness It and it was the most fun I've had in a long while.

Isn't that Inner Voice a pesky pain in the arse? ;-)