Sweating it

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.

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5 Responses to Sweating it

  1. Zin Kenter says:

    Hello, Elizabeth! I can not even begin to imagine how complicated it must be to untangle the threads of a plot or character from a novel! I have trouble making even tiny changes to short stories, it always feels like a house of cards and if I move one thing the whole house will come down!

    But I know a couple of things: I know you CAN do it! You are awesome and you can do this, it is scary and you can sweat and shiver and maybe even cry but you hug Ampersand and you go back to work and you WILL do it! You MUST do it! Well, that is three things, not a couple, but we will be so excited in a few months when it is all done and the agent is delighted with the results and calls you with those magic words: “We have a sale!”

    Because, look, every author does this process, yes? And a lot of authors might be brilliant, but a lot are dopes too, so you CAN and WILL and MUST do this because you are far better than a lot of the authors out there who have done this!

  2. Oh, Zin, thank you for your encouragement! Between my friends cheering me on and a breakthrough yesterday in a conversation with another writer, I’m beginning to feel much more confident about this. What would we do without our writer friends?

  3. Camlin says:

    Can you somehow incorporate the part of the story you love, but must cut, into something else? It’s funny how we grow attached to our words, and the worlds we create with them…

  4. I’m actually planning to make it a free-standing short story. Absolutely not throwing it out!

    • lucinda says:

      Neva, eva throws it out! says Roosevelt Puckett. But some of us, eh-hem, must learn to ‘move on’. If anyone can, La P can-can! What’d that cup of BZ’s says: Write like a Mother Fucker! Whoops, for the faint at heart, pardon moi!

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