As mentioned before, I’ve been working on a paper printout of WRBTD for the last several days. I’ve always liked doing editing rounds on paper, but sometimes I don’t have the resolve to go all the way through. By that I mean I’ll print out the whole project and edit until I hit a peak of frustration so high that I can’t get over it. Maybe a chapter isn’t working. Maybe I’ve got a character all wrong. Maybe the plot is unraveling in that one particular spot. Sometimes when I hit that point, I shove aside the paper copy and go back to the screen to do macro changes and fix the problem that’s driving me so crazy.
The issue I was running into with WRBTD was that I kept repeating that above cycle. Printing out the novel. Editing. Running into a problem. Quitting the paper. Going back to the screen.
I worked out many a story problem that way…BUT I also started to get extremely frustrated because I kept poking and prodding at the beginning quarter or third of the story, and not letting myself move on.
This time I felt myself getting stuck again about twenty chapters in. But maybe because I printed the novel out and also had it bound so that it would feel more like a real book, I felt determined to stick with it all the way through. I forced myself to keep going. And going. And going.
It was a huge exercise in patience, and I’m so glad to have done it. I found that some of the weaknesses in my story were almost habitual, cropping up again in other places far later in the book. But I also discovered new strengths in the novel that I had never noticed before. Those gave me hope.
Toward the end of the paper-editing round I fell into a slump of self-loathing for a couple of days. It was terribly ironic because the more I found things to like about the second half of my novel, the lower my mood dropped. It made no sense. A friend said to me the other day, “Being a writer is basically voluntarily taking on an emotional disorder.” He was so right.
I put myself up to the task of getting this story out of my brain. I gave myself this emotional disorder. It’s up to me to pull myself back out of the dark pit.
Tonight as I brushed my teeth I thought about the process I’ve gone through in writing past novel projects. I thought about that short story I worked at on and off again for five years before finally publishing it. And I remembered: I write the way I paint watercolors. I put down layer after layer.
I’ve got a lot of layers down on this project already. Hating what I have on the page now (because I spent a few days really hating this novel) is equivalent to hating a watercolor painting after only putting down half the colors.
And that got me excited again, because in forcing myself to go through the entire manuscript on paper from start to finish, I’ve figured out exactly which layers need to come next.