Writing is a primarily solitary pastime. Despite the community feel that the internet provides, at the end of the day it is generally just you and your pen/keyboard. Without putting your bum in the seat and getting that word-count up no story will ever get written. And in order to do that you have to be able to believe in what you are doing: you have to have faith that you can tell the story that wants to clamber out of your head.
Well, I’ve written my story: I’ve even rewritten it once. Now I am working my way through it slowly and making notes on where I can improve it. I had some good feedback from my beta readers – clear and constructive advice on how I can move forward – and they were all elements I knew probably had to be addressed. So I know where changes have to be implemented and have even identified a brand new opening for the novel that I believe will make it more dynamic and dramatic.
However, the thing that is lacking is my self-belief. I have spent three years building up my writing confidence. I know I can get the story down and I have no qualms about tackling a new novel (and even had one planned for NaNoWriMo). But this part – the editing of the written piece – I am still struggling with.
I don’t seem to be able to edit the page of words that I have. Instead my instinct is to rewrite it. But I can’t rewrite the entire novel again – especially not because I fear I will have the same issues when I come to edit such a hypothetical manuscript. Even though I have some plans (highlighted in last week’s post) that I can follow to help me through the process itself, I am still having trouble tackling the act of editing my words.
When it comes down to it, I think it is less to do with the process or the writing itself (I understand the theory and don’t really think the manuscript warrants a whole rewrite) and more that I am the problem. I don’t believe in my ability to edit. I haven’t done enough of it (not like writing – three years of NaNoWriMo have seen to that) and I have never attempted it on such a scale. I have managed to edit short stories, tinkering with the words, altering paragraphs and sentences where needed, but I have confidence in these because I can see the product as a whole. With my novel I find it more difficult to anticipate the knock on effect of changing something I believe is a minor detail and following that through the entire text.
The difficult part is the knowledge that I have to make mistakes. I know I am afraid of doing this on a novel I have worked so hard on to get to this stage. It’s taken so long to get here that I fear if I spend another year trying to learn the process of editing, getting it wrong and having to retrace my steps, I might never have a finished product. On the other hand, if I keep putting it off and never make those mistakes how will I ever move forward?
So yes, I am at a stage where I recognise my limitations, have acknowledged that I need to make mistakes and yet am still afraid to make them. I don’t have enough self-belief to forge on regardless, therefore I need to find a way to fool myself into thinking this is something I can do. I need to harness some self-belief.