When I was pregnant with my first child, experienced parents approached me and my rounded belly and always smiled an empathetic smile.
One by one, they hinted at what I was in for once that baby arrived: no sleep, life as I knew it would be over, and the crying…oh the crying.
I heard them, but I didn’t heed their words, because I was riding high on the excitement of holding a baby in my arms. Sleep is underrated, I thought. Life is boring anyway, and a baby’s cry? Like the sound of sweet music.
But after my son was born, I realized the crying of which they warned me were the sobs of a new mother. Cries from me, falling apart after several sleepless days and nights and battles with feeding and a moment in the hospital when I feared I would never be a good mother.
“I told you that you’d feel this way,” my sister said, through her own tears, as she tried to comfort me.
My recent attempt at fixing my WIP brought with it a similar flood of emotion and self doubt.
I’ve read over and over how novel writing is hard work – the first draft may come out easy, but the real challenge comes in rewriting. I nodded each time I read those words, because the logistics made sense. A first draft is never perfect. I got it.
Then, I pushed those wise words aside and set my gaze on a dreamy image of me holding a published novel in hand. I told myself, I can do this rewrite thing, chapter by chapter. And, character development (my latest issue)? That’s easy enough. I’m the author. I can make up whatever I want.
But, that’s not exactly true. While I, the author, control all the variables, those variables must make sense in relation to the real world. As Larry Brooks says it in his book on character development*, a character’s “…major behavioral tendencies and specific actions need to be in context to psychological truths, and if [they aren’t] your story will suffer for it.”
After a few days of scribbling notes and typing frantic details into a new document, I stared at my WIP with wide eyes and climbed aboard that same roller coaster that new mothers ride. My head swelled and my stomach fell and soon enough I said out loud, I’m not so sure I can do this. What if I get it all wrong? What made me think I could ever write a novel?
As I write this post, it all sounds so dramatic. But, that’s the way I felt in the last few days. And, I don’t think I’m alone.
Ray Bradbury was talking to some self-doubting writer when he said, “You fail only if you stop writing.”
And, Amy Tan was easing the fears of another writer when she said, “I started a second novel seven times and had to throw them all away.”
Whether I start over completely from scratch, or I get back into the ring with my main character and wrestle her into confession, I’m not sure. Regardless, I have a WIP in my hands, a story that needs finishing, and I am the only one who can do it.
* Brooks, Larry. 2010. The Three Dimensions of Character Development: Going Deep and Wide to Create Compelling Heroes and Villains. [e-book] Larry Brooks, available at http://www.storyfix.com.