I’m struggling right now with a rewrite on The Swan Harp. I know it needs to be done. It just feels so much like starting over, because there’s a lot that needs to be changed.
I cut out a huge chunk, forty-five pages. It was an episode I really liked, and I still have to untangle tendrils of it from the rest of the story. I want to say right here that even though it was the episode that got me the grant, it had to go. I knew that as soon as the agent said she didn’t see what it had to do with the main story. I had no problem with the direction, at least, not on an intellectual level.
I’m taking her suggestions quite seriously, writing down new ideas for the story, ways to integrate characters and plot threads earlier. I need to make several characters stronger and more consistent, and I need to lose another. I have to rethink some basic ideas about my world, and there’s a whole new theme to be integrated into the story. The changes I have to make will only make this novel better. My writer self knows this. But there’s part of me that’s really scared.
I’m having the sweats. Panic, flop sweat, self doubt, whatever you call it. Cutting that episode quite literally made me perspire. Can I untangle it completely? Will the story be flat without it? How do I do the things I still have to do? And, being who I am, I’m pushing myself for a short deadline. That, I believe, is more than likely the root of my panic.
Of course I can do this. It’s my story – I know this world and these people, I can play with it. The question that’s really scaring me is – can I do it fast enough?
What I need to remember is that writing isn’t a race – it’s a marathon. In the immortal words of Neil Peart, “First you need endurance; first you gotta last”. Nobody’s pushing me but me. Nobody’s said, “Oh, yeah, and have that final draft done by mid-April, wouldja?”
My friend Yvette said, when I confessed my doubts, “Of course you can write this novel and flopping – not even a real consideration. It’s that hateful internal critic, and it’s that critic’s job to be a poop-head. Breathe through it, set it aside and move forward.”
Okay. I’ll do that. Just breathe. Even while I’m sweating, just breathe. And write. It’ll come.