Writers, like most artists, tend to be perfectionists. They imagine how they want the story to unfold, but their inner critic tells them the writing will fall short. Sometimes, this discrepancy between what writers envision and what they attempt to do is so debilitating they can’t type a single word. Of those who do manage to set aside their inner critic and write something, 97% never finish their manuscripts.
When I started writing The Devil Particle, I envisioned the story as a cross between Flowers for Algernon, The Hunger Games, and Fahrenheit 451. I also wanted to philosophically explore the purpose of evil. Yep, I was definitely aiming high.
Then I received the first developmental edits from Tim Storm, my editor, and it was obvious my book needed a lot of work. I struggled with how to go about making the necessary changes and considered giving up. My inner critique told me I wasn’t up to the task. She said I didn’t have the smarts, the ability, or the perseverance to tackle what I’d set out to do.
But I liked the story. I liked the characters. There were parts of the book that my editor and I agreed worked. And while I am a perfectionist, I’m also very stubborn. I rarely give up on anything.
When authors mention they have old manuscripts in their drawers which, because they feel the writing is so bad, will never see the light of day, I have a hard time understanding that. I love my stories and can’t imagine no one reading them–ever. It breaks my heart. Maybe there’ll come a day when I’ve lost interest in what I’ve written and I’ll set it aside, but that hasn’t happened yet.
So, I kept at The Devil Particle and it turned into three books, then four. A month ago, I sent my editor the completed manuscript for the second book. I honestly thought it was the best writing I’d ever done. Maybe not up to Bradbury’s, Collins’, or Keyes’ standards, but pretty damn good.
Then last week, Tim sent me his developmental edit a few days before my daughter’s wedding. My inner critic told me I was deceiving myself, the writing sucked, and Tim would most certainly tell me the manuscript needed a lot more work. Obviously, there was no way I was going to open it until after the wedding. I didn’t want that writer’s depression to hit as I walked my daughter down the aisle. Tim’s comments and my inner critic weren’t going to spoil one of the happiest days of my life.
The wedding was amazing (congratulations Caitlin and Sean!). On Monday I was still riding a joyous high and I was ready to read Tim’s comments.
Imagine my surprise when I read,
“You know the drill here. I send you this. You cry. Then you get to work. No, I truly think there should be less crying this time around. The story is pretty tight . . . You need to address a few issues, but you won’t need another developmental edit here.”
Not another developmental edit?! That’s a first!
Take that, inner critic.
Now I’m revising book three and my inner critic is back, but she’s much more subdued. I know I’ll struggle with some of my edits, but this time around I know I’ll succeed. Getting the first book of The Devil Particle Quadrilogy released next year is looking better and better all the time.
Where you can find me:
Waunakee Writers’ Group – Thursday, September 2, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Off Campus Writers’ Workshop Zoom Craft Talk – Thursday, October 7, 9:30 – 12:00 noon. I’ll teach my Creating Unforgettable Characters workshop. Be sure to keep posted for more information!