Writer Dysphoria

writing process editing drafting

2016 will be the year I move to another level with my writing.

I've already developed, during 2015, far stronger writing habits than I've ever had before.

However, I think I also developed self-sabotage methods. It's not done. It's not ready. Take another crack at it. Change this. Add complexity.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Draft 3 was stronger than Draft 5.* But I may never know. Because Draft 5 is here, and it won't go away. Things have changed. My perspective on this story has been inexorably altered. I continue forward.

But I'm still my greatest obstacle between this moment, and the moment when this novel is published. I used to be the greatest obstacle because I failed to write consistently. I have corrected that behavior. I do something every day that moves this story forward.

Now I am my greatest obstacle because, whether it's rooted in fear of being done with the story, or a an undying belief that I could always make it just a little bit better, because I am locked in a spiral of changing my story. Trying to clarify the exposition. Trying to build up the characters into stronger, more purposeful, people. Trying to distill the elements down to only what is required to navigate this plot.

I believe, after some reflection, that I tend to think of this story in terms of the broad character development that comes from series such as Star Trek, or Firefly, or X-Files. That I think that this can happen, and that can happen, and they can be separated by opening and closing credits, but the characters must continue forward.

And I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing. I do intend to write more books in this universe, so the characters will live and grow as well. But I think my approach, in terms of it applying to book 1, is not quite right. Am I thinking too broadly about this universe I created? Making too many far-distant plans when the story needs to be here and now, in the immediate?

Talis, as far as she knows, needs to complete the actions of Flotsam Plot 1. The idea that this will be followed by Flotsam Plot 2 is only a tiny whisper in her mind. Yes, something will come after. They don't have time for Flotsam Plot 2 Item right now, so she folds it up, sticks it in her pocket, and promises the crew they'll get back to it after Flotsam Plot 1 is complete.

Is that me? I do promise this other thing is coming, and I have its elements in my pocket. Even drop some bread crumbs in this book.

Is that a bad thing? Is thinking about the long-game really harming my writing in the first book? When Harry went to the zoo in book one, Dumbledore was doomed in book seven.

I don't know the answer to this, by the way. But I do know that finishing each draft and sending it off to ß-readers only allows me to react to their questions with a huge heave of my lungs and a dramatic declaration of, "Baaaaaack to the drawing board. Make a new copy of the Scrivener project! This time I'll get it right!"

It's untenable. And it's unfair to me. There are tools out there that I can access. They're not free. I think that's what's held me back before. No, I don't intend to make writing a full-time career. But I do intend to make my stories as strong as I possibly can. Trying to avoid paying for the tools that can far more effectively help me is akin to saying, "My writing isn't actually worth a pitiful cent."

To that end, I have decided to engage the services of a writing coach and developmental editor. This story has been a huge focus of my life since 2003. It's time to invest more than the couple hundred bucks that I have spent on paper, markers, and software over the past thirteen years. Because this story, and my writing, are worth it.

I used to see the process of writing as:

  • Write (in solitude) - Check!
  • Engage ß-readers (from a distance) - Check!
  • Incorporate feedback (in solitude) - Check, check, and check again!
  • Return to my ß-readers (if they'll have me)
  • Rinse. Repeat.
  • When everyone loves the draft, self-edit for any remaining issues that would embarrass me. (in solitude, future tense)
  • Find an editor to check my work. (chew nails while waiting, future tense)
  • Publish, future tense.
  • Start Book 2, future tense.

Now I see I am caught in the gravitational field of my own assumptions. Gotta get out. Gonna start now.

I haven't seen a lot of posts out there specifically about working with an editor. I'm very much looking forward to the process and have no idea what the next few months will look like. I'll report back, to be sure.

* Technically there was no draft 4. I started to create a new revision level above 4 to solve some world building exposition, and then spun off in these 'what if' scenarios and felt better just starting Draft 5.