- Photo © SARAH HOBBS
Or in my case, maybe, of the mediocre? I’m not really all that superstitious, but at this point I don’t really want to jynx anything by getting too far ahead of myself.
This is something that all writers have to figure out how to come to terms with, I think; at least, I’ve bumped up against it in academic work, and I’ve heard a number of published authors talk about it with regard to their novels, so I think at this point we’re in “truth universally acknowledged” territory.
That is: the thing you’re writing is never going to be perfect. It’s not even going to be close. In his intro to the 10th-anniversary edition of American Gods, Neil Gaimon referenced an old saying: “a novel can best be defined as a long piece of prose with something wrong with it”. In the last apartment I was in, I remember I actually printed that out and pinned it to my corkboard as a reminder.
Unfortunately, looking at an inspirational phrase is not the same thing as really believing it.
I managed to successfully finish my 0-draft – what I’m calling my “Sketch” – of my novella during NaNoWriMo, and pulled together the courage to send that off to friends and also to my mother and my mother-in-law for feedback. The good news is that nobody said that I was horrible or that I should go and die in a ditch somewhere.
Not that I was really expecting anyone to say that.
The other good news was that everyone had some really constructive things to say, and they all seemed to have heard my explanation that this was just a quick scribble draft, and no one got too hung up on the writing.
The bad news is that the deadline for submissions at Tor is January 12th, which is only 21 days away, and 21 days is not a lot of time!!!
Of course, I knew I wasn’t going to have a lot of time to do this. My last entry here was about pretty much just that. But there’s a difference between knowing it and feeling it, and right now I feel like I’m all but drowning in the understanding of how little time I have and how much I need to do.
The problem is that there’s more feedback than I can act on in the timeframe that I have. I only had a month to conceptualize this entire thing, and that definitely shows in some areas that are underdeveloped. I knew I had areas of weakness, and I thought I was okay with that, but having readers come back and point them out to me makes me want to sit down and try to rework everything from the ground up, and I don’t have time to do that.
On the other hand, it feels irresponsible to blithely continue going when I know there’s a problem. My brain’s super-helpful solution to this dilemma is to just stop functioning; if I can’t write the perfect thing, clearly I shouldn’t write anything at all.
Well, that’s obviously nonsense. The only thing worse than writing a flawed story is not writing a story at all because it’s flawed. You don’t learn anything from holding back. If you wait until you’re perfect before you try something, you’re just never going to do anything, ever.
So, with that said, I’m trying to push forward. It feels like I’m running in molasses and I’m fairly sure I’m going to be disappointed by the result, but I’ll be damned if I let that stop me.
Still, it’s a challenge.