Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Writing Journey: Introspection

Another page in the journey.  Editing is such a big thing; you can get lost in it. Let me back up just a bit.  I am trying to sort out dozens of writing thoughts in my mind, and it makes me nervous. 

I read writer's blogs...many writer's blogs, gleaning tips and ideas, information, and urls of other writer's blogs.  Originally in denial of things I read, like that I would come to HATE my manuscript <laughing> and right now I do.

Trying to edit this book has turned into a challenge unlike any other I have faced.  And it has brought much introspection.  I have spent two months working over this book, and in the process have added nearly 5,000 words (originally unintended but felt were necessary). And will possibly slice out another 5,000 words before I am done.  Something about that is just plain illogical.

I have fussed and fidgeted with word order, sentence structure, sliced out "ly" words, struggled with commas (my Achilles heel), stressed over subjects, prepositions, verb tenses, pronoun confusion, transitional errors, redundancy of words, not to mention changing the names of characters...what a nightmare that is. I am now on a first name basis with Merriam Webster and the Grammar Girl.  Okay, that last line was a big lie, but I remind you--I do write fiction. <smile>  I had to fess'up. We all know that Mr. Webster is dead.  And the Grammar girl doesn't know me from Adam.

I have rewritten not just the first chapter, but the first three, trying to minimize back-story until later in the book.  I read it out loud, printed it out so I could read the words on paper in a different location. 

All the while,  feeling a sense of urgency eating at me, the need to get it done, nipping at my heels.

Everything involved with this process has come down to this:  Am I afraid to let go of it?  Afraid to discover that the story is not good, afraid to find that my characters fail to reach the reader, that the story is predictable, or feels too concocted? 


Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote a marvelous book, "Women Who Run With the Wolves".  In it, she tells of the repression of the wild inner woman. It is an excellent write about what has happened over centuries causing women to become so repressed, our cultures, our religions, for example. 

One thing I read in her book came to me as a shout. You know that inner voice that narrates our lives, that speaks our consciences, that reads the written word to us?  My inner voice actually shouted when it read one sentence.  And it kept repeating it to me.  The gist (this is not a direct quote) is that always feeling as though our work is not good enough to show to others, not good enough to call "finished", is a symptom of the repression of the wild, creative, inner-spirit, that is--among other things, a born storyteller, a writer of tales, a maker of myths.

But...I have learned a lot about me.  I do have self-restraint.  This part of writing is "zero" fun.  But I will not allow myself to delve deeply into the creation of another story until it is done. I write notes, ideas, descriptions, but that is about it.  Other than working 40+ hours a week  and my brief nightly rounds to here (Blogger), Wordpress, Twitter, and facebook, it is all editing.

So...there is good reason to wrap it up and let go.  My family is waiting, friends are waiting...and other stories are waiting to be told...and (dang!) eventually be edited ;-)

I don't know where other writers (who might read this) are with their journeys, but I thought I would share this for anyone who has not yet experienced this filling of self-doubt, this overwhelming feeling of losing your way. It is all new, a learning experience, an opportunity, a blessing.   Just keep on keeping on.



  1. Dear Teresa,
    although I am not at that stage of the writing journey yet, I think what you are feeling is completely normal (I do sound like Dr. Phil, don't I :D) I think the editing part is the one that creates these feelings of doubt, because after writing and re-writing certain parts, how should you know what is a right and a wrong choice anymore, when initially you wrote it a certain way..
    I am not finished with my novel, I wrote about 60 pages a year ago, then I stopped. Then I re-wrote it. Then I edited the unfinished thing. Since then, I just cannot bring myself to open that damn doc.
    Bestseller.doc is haunting me, because it is so obvious to me, that it is not. And that I am more arrogant than I am competent!

    I still like the initial idea, but I realized that I really screwed up the whole thing, basic structural things. I did it all wrong, even the editing part. The story is so badly told and lifeless when I read it, that I cannot take a look at it anymore. It's so deeply flawed.. like, you know when something is so messy, you can't bring yourself to do the first step to clean it up. The first step would be to rename it...

    But back to your struggles, the dilemma of your initial idea of a good story and what you think the readers may enjoy, that's a hard one, because it may go against all your instincts and as a writer you sort of are an expert reader by nature yourself, so I'd say, trust your instincts and it will be a good story, I am sure! I know it's against all the tipps, but in my opinion don't edit in order to make your story more marketable (like what to tell and what to withhold for a sequel) I know, the reality of book-writing tells another story, but in my naive world, it shoudn't be a first priority (and I am always afraid the avid reader may smell an overambitious want-to-sell-attitude from afar.. like I did..yes, Trudy Canavan, I am talking about you.)

    Im not worried.. because of the way you tell stories in general, your blog post compositions, and the professionalism you have, I think you already are a great writer who, in the future, will sell a lot of books, as well.
    And self-doubt is something useful, it's a sign that you have the capacity to improve. That's a very important quality for a writer! Hang in there!

  2. Hi, Teresa:

    I'm with you when it comes to how draining editing can be. But your advice is wise--just keep on keeping on. :-)

    As I was reading your post, three blogs came to mind. Two you already follow--Grammar Girl, and Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares. The third you may not have visited yet--Writing While the Rice Boils. That blog has lots of useful tips for fiction writers. Also, as is relevant to your current post, the two most recent posts on WWTRB cover backstory in fiction.

    Good for you for sticking with your work through this tedious process! As they say, the only way around is through. :-)

    Be well.

  3. DasNuk, :-) I imagine your voice sounding very different than Dr. Phil's. ;-) Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I would take a guess that your book is interesting, and well written.I am chugging through my insecurity about my book, currently reading it out loud to my husband who doesn't read much other than NatGeo, is not a fan of fantasy or romance, and is painfully blunt in his criticism. If my shoulders are broad enough to take the weight of his opinion, I will probably be just fine. So far so good. About 35 pages a night because I edit as I go. I do hope that you get back to your writing :-) !

  4. Janette, thank you. I did read "Writing While the Rice Boils". What timing! I think she is up to several posts about back-story. Very informative. I am now following her blog, too. Yes, the only way around is through... Thanks for the encouragement :-)

  5. Teresa, I have a different view. Although reading and knowing what other writers offer is good, it KILLS your originality. Why should you think and behave what others suggest or what worked for them? You are different and their formula may not even work for you. So my suggestion is, not to mumble jumble your work. their is beauty in originality.....

  6. Marjaan, good to see you stop by :-) I have wondered about the thought you just shared,that watching how everyone else is doing it will possibly change my voice. I don't want to change my voice, and am trying to find the balance between what works and what is my own unique way to tell a story, if that makes any sense. The more I read, the more I manage to sift out what works over and over again as far as structure, and then what are personal thoughts of other writers that worked for them but might not for me. After reading so many blogs of other writers, I think that there is no right or wrong, no formula for success, just ideas and gentle guidelines for story structure that make for a better read, a well-paced story, and a method for keeping the reader turning pages.

    I have been writing for 7 years, and have come across a universe of distance in my writing. Of all the things I have learned, I think the most important is how much I probably still don't know. I am just trying to find that place where I know enough. :-) Enough to get that story out there without a major blunder, without horrible reviews that will thwart attempts to publish a second book. lol...oh my...what a journey, what an adventure. I sent the first book I ever wrote to a publisher in January of 2009. A small imprint of a big publisher--one that actually accepts unsolicited manuscripts. The same time I did, I made a second (hard) copy and wrapped it up and set it on a shelf. Someday, after I tweak that one with everything I have learned since, I am going to open that package and probably be embarrassed at what I sent to an editor. BUT, touching on something you said --about originality...I hope that it will be a barometer of sorts about the old writer in me, if I have thoroughly lost my way. It is fantastic story, with an interesting protagonist who everyone who has read the book could identify with. lol, okay, I am rambling on now. I have a graduation party to attend in a bit, and then a big project in the house to work on. Never enough time... Thanks so much for your words. It is good to be reminded to just be myself when I set ink to paper ;-)