Life is messy, and just when you think you’ve got the clutter picked up, an earthquake shakes everything up again and leaves you crying why.
The last few weeks have thrown me up against a wall and left my head spinning. It began when I took chapter 21 of my current WIP into my writing group. I read, they told me it was great, then they calmly, somewhat kindly told me what was wrong with it. I was grateful for the critique as I’d been tossing and turning in my head over the movement of the story, how it wasn’t moving. Or maybe it was. I’ve been so caught up in the thing—what with the protagonist being closer to me than any character I’ve ever placed into fiction before—that I knew my perspective was off.
I went home that week determined to resolve the issues they’d brought up. And I thought I had when I took chapter 22 in the next week. The ending of that chapter introduced a creature into the mix that had only been hinted at up until then. I thought for sure the ending was great. So I read, sure the BAND-AIDS® I’d placed on the open plot hole wounds would cover all the problems up. I was wrong. The group eviscerated it. Okay, a bit of hyperbole, but I walked out of the class during the break and didn’t go back. I was devastated. Now, I’ve been devastated before by critique. I’ve even cried about it. But this time, I’d been hit twice in two sessions, and it took me a couple of days to pull myself out of the hole and look at the plotting honestly.
And they were right. I was right. I’d known the story wasn’t working for me, but I’d pushed on through. Which is fine in first draft. After first draft, though, I should have done all I could to find the flaws and clear them up, and I hadn’t. I’d shifted the point of view and the verb tense, both changes that strengthened the storytelling, but the story itself was lacking, and I didn’t know what to do.
The advice most writers with even the slightest amount of experience will give you is to set the manuscript aside for a bit. Let t sit. Work on something else. Go for walks. Watch movies. Binge-watch TV shows. Whatever. I, on the other hand, tend to be fairly quick about coming around. Or I don’t come around for a year or two. I’m an all-or-nothing type of gal. Lucky for me, in this case, it was the former.
Here’s what I had to do: I deleted a character which left a great hole in the entire piece, but she was more baggage than necessity. I moved the revelation of the creature mentioned above to chapter 2. Yeah, twenty chapters ahead of its previous first appearance. I added a secondary character and gave her narration rights in tiny increments. All of which have brought me to a place where finishing this thing is going to take a whole lot longer than I’d planned, but it will be better for the work, and I know it.
So if anyone tries to tell you writing’s easy, they’re either liars or they’ve never glued their butt to a chair and made themselves do it for longer than a sneeze. Writing is work. It’s work that gives me a great deal of satisfaction and keeps me sane, especially on the crazier days. I wouldn’t exchange it for any other vocation. But the last few weeks have been messy. Is the earthquake done? Maybe. But the aftershocks will live on until I put this baby to bed and call it done.