Maybe I ate too much turkey Thanksgiving week. (Or, more likely, had too many helpings of sweet potatoes topped with streusel.) Maybe I have hit a wall. But after eight weeks of furious activity and thrilling inspiration, during which I produced five full chapters of my novel and felt like I had finally pushed past the murky middle to see the light at the end of my book, I returned to writing after giving myself Thanksgiving week off, opened up the ms, read a few bits here and there, and felt...blah. Blah blah blah. Like, I don't really feel like working on this. Like, some of it stinks. Like, I would rather be taking a nap.
I've often heard it said that writing is like exercise -- skip a few workouts and you may never work out again. I am certain I will write again. What worries me, though, is to feel so lackluster, as though my book were a torrid affair I'd been barreling through with blinders on, a thing so fragile that only the slightest bit of distance could turn torrid to tepid in the space of a week. Like waking up after a night of passion to regard one's lover in the cold light of day (and with morning breath), looking at my book this week all I can see are its flaws, and I kind of feel like breaking up with it.
To me, this feeling of underwhelmed ambivalence is far scarier than writer's block. How could characters that have captivated me so utterly suddenly seem so far from alluring? How could a storyline that so entertained me these past months suddenly feel so strained and strung out?
This happened to me once before in writing this novel. (It being my first, my list of experiences to draw upon is short to nonexistent, which is why I've been so grateful for all the insights She Writers have generously shared with me here.) This summer, after completing what I felt was the first third of my book, I realized, at 50,000 words, that it was flabby, redundant, and long. Looking at it, I had a distinct case of the blahs. It was hard to be inspired to go forward when I felt so uninspired looking back. So I decided it was time to revise, for real--to go backwards, in order to go through.
I'd been revising all along, but only on the level of the chapter. I had yet to look at the book as a whole, and it was about time. And so I sat down and tackled what I had so far, cutting 20,000 words relatively painlessly (a sure sign you are doing the right thing), resulting in six opening chapters I felt were tight, well-paced, and meaty. With those chapters safely in hand, my confidence was restored and my faith was replenished, and I was able to embark on part two with a spring in my step.
I only have one chapter to go in what I see as the middle third of my book. I think I can bring myself to write a draft of it even with a serious case of the blahs, hopefully by the end of next week, just before heading home for the holidays. (It should help that in that chapter, my main character finally gets laid.) And then I will have my next chunk complete--which, I am happy to report, will be closer to 30,000 words than to 50,000, unless I write the longest sex scene of all time. And at that point, I think it is time, again, to revise, to pull back and use the wide-angle lens, fix things up, and regain some perspective on the larger beauty of the thing I'm creating, rather than scrutinizing the dirt contained in its every pore.
And so I ask you, She Writers, When do you revise?
Do you push forward until you have a full draft, never looking back until you have seen it through? (I know writers who do this.) Or do you revise as you go, even going through multiple drafts of single chapters, or paragraphs, before moving on? (I know writers who do this too.) Or, like me, do you try to meet a goal, and then take a timeout to revise a larger section or chunk of the book?
As ever, I am all ears. I will be looking for ways to procrastinate this week, as I head off to write a sex scene that, apparently, I could care less about.