The Birth of a Novel and the PostPartum Depression That Follows

I stayed right on track this past weekend. On Friday, I took a day off from work to stage my own little writing retreat. I worked on revising my novel. On Saturday, I finished revising and wrote a few extra chapters to close out the story. I got so into the story that at one point I wrote a pivotal scene and gave myself goose bumps. I loaded everything into Scrivener. Piece by piece I saw the outline of my first novel grow. I hit compile and held my breath. 72,200 words birthed from hours upon hours of work. It was written everywhere from my couch, to my bed, to the coffee shop, to the bus, to SXSW, to my office during lunchtime. This novel has come with me from fall to winter and soon to spring. The novel has travelled to California (via email), to Maine for a funeral, to Chicago and Philadelphia for layovers. I have spent joyous and angry and sleepy and hungry emotions on this writing. It felt so good to get it compiled, like a big gulp of clear, country air.

On Sunday I should have been ecstatic to get it printed and go through it, right? Draft 2- one step closer to feeling ready to share it with the world. Some timeline updates, character tweaks, and line edits are what stand between now and submission time. But, the monster in my mind has taken over and now I can’t stand to look at it. All that work and I worry that the story that’s on paper is not what’s in my head. I bought colored Post-It notes, all ready and eager to stick them all over the draft on pages that need work, and now I’m paralyzed in my progress.

I know I need to suck it up and just get reading. I can hope the distance of the last two days away from the work will make the process easier. Does this happen to anyone else? If I can’t even get through this round of revisions, how will I ever feel “done” with this piece? Self-doubt is really the worst, because you can’t blame anyone but yourself.

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Keeping My Word

I’m a big fan of keeping commitments. I committed to a lifelong marriage, I committed to caring for my two sweet puppies, I committed to a 30 year mortgage, and I committed to getting through revisions for this story by March 30.

I’m happy to report here, that I’m well ahead of my goal. As of last night, I’ve written a whole new introduction to the book and revised and reworked 24 of 36 chapters. Something about this process just clicked recently and I found myself easily tying up loose plots ends and having no trouble deleting lots and lots of things that didn’t work.

I think part of my inspiration comes from the week I spent at SXSWedu. The company I work for was a sponsor and I got a badge and was able to attend sessions, workshops, and panels full of interesting and innovative ideas. Being surrounded by people who think big and people who want to change kids’ lives was extremely motivating, both professionally and personally.

I thought this process would be a lot more difficult. I thought I’d be too attached to chapters, plot lines, and characters to delete them. But I found that just the opposite was true. It felt like spring cleaning to go in and take out lots of stuff. I wrote this piece during Nano and I found a lot of incessant character rambling and inner thought diatribes that were written just to fill up word count. Taking that stuff out has freed me to do so much more with my character and to leave a little more to the reader’s imagination.

With all this progress, I’m revising my March goal. Instead, I’d like to be done with this round of revisions by the 15th and to print a hard copy of the piece sometime this weekend. Then I’m committing to a full read-through and making additional revisions by March 30th.