Friday, July 8, 2016

Self-Editing for Anxious Writers

I've read several books (and parts of even more books) and taken online courses and read plenty of blog posts about editing my work, writing better, figuring out plot and goals and motivation, and so on.

Let me tell you, it's hard to internalize that stuff for anyone, but maybe more so when you're an anxious sort of person. Or depressive. Or diagnosed with depression because your anxiety makes it hard to bond. Or whatever weird shade of the multi-dimensional spectrum I fit into. But anyway, when everything feels like criticism because I'm doing it wrong, then trying to learn to do something right is convoluted at best.

(Alyssa Day has been bravely tackling her issues with depression in a public way over the last few years. She wrote an excellent article, with input from several other authors, in the latest Romance Writers' Report, called On Writers and Depression: You are not Alone. I think everyone can see that, even if you're not an RWA member)

But this post is not about depression. Or even anxiety.

This post is about editing while anxious.

So technically, that makes it about anxiety. OK, yes. I'm splitting hairs.

I tend to write the most when I'm feeling good. The last book I finished, I was flying through it, for the most part. I went back every now and then and added in the character and plot insights I gained as I went. I stuttered and stopped a few times near the end, because figuring out how to tie it all up is hard. But I did it. And it was glorious. I edited it through, still loved it, and entered the first part into a variety of contests.

And.... most of those contests have come back with good critiques, some of which I agree with. I am a finalist in NONE of them, though. Wait, I think there's one that hasn't been announced yet. Or two?

I did some revisions after the first batch, after spending a couple of days on Nobody likes me, everybody hates me thinking.

And right now in the run-up to RWA National Conference, I am doing another deep edit of this book I want to pitch.

I am also reconsidering my genre. It might not be romance. There are these three friends, see, two best friends who are polar opposites of each other and a third one who's just started to hang out with them. And they all attempt to find love and there's a happy ending, so it's romance-ish. So it's.... Chick Lit? Women's Fiction? They're college kids, so New Adult?

Is it due to my anxiety that I don't think I can write romance? This is where anxiety messes with me. I know I love to write. I know I can always improve. And I know that I have in the past been unable to win contests or get an agent for earlier books. So the days when I think I'm a big failure, I have to suffer and then try to figure out if it's true.

I decided the other day it's a bit like a soap opera, but I was never a soap opera watcher. Or Sex and the City, but I saw about five minutes of that show once. And my people don't have fabulous clothes--two of them are scraping by with enormous loans, scholarships, and jobs, the other has a middle class family to fall back on, at least.

And yes, I could take out just one of the love stories and make a whole book about it. I could make three books, but they all overlap. And it's at least as much about the friendships as it is about finding love.

So this deep edit is more to make the story fit into a three-act structure better, but I'm keeping my original premise and structure. It's true the first act where we get to know the characters and their goals does drag a bit. It's too long. And what are their goals? I know their goals. I don't know how clearly I have expressed those goals. Not clearly enough, apparently. Especially because the main character's goals change somewhat. Or rather, her circle of trusted friends will need to expand.

Or else.... maybe it's all pointless. Maybe this is all awful. Maybe no one will ever want to buy this or read this or anything. Maybe my particular type of anxiety means I will never be able to market anything. Maybe all my friends and family who have said they loved my books are lying. Maybe I am a terrible writer and no one wants to tell me. Maybe I should get an MFA. Maybe they'd flunk me out of a writing program. Maybe maybe maybe...



This is a great book. I hope to make it better. I hope to find an agent and a publisher for it.

I'm currently reading several self-help books about Networking for Introverts and Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety. So as in everything, I am a work in progress.

As Lani Diane Rich, author and teacher of one of the first writing classes I ever took makes everyone repeat at the end of each session:

I'm a great writer!

And I am.

Read my French historical novels and you'll see:
The Indispensable Wife
The Honorable Officer

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