This morning, I checked my messages over on FACEBOOK and found one by a good friend of mine, Garrett. He asked me something that got me thinking not only about my personal journey as a writer, but also those of other writers out there. In essence, when do we move on to another story? When do we convince ourselves it's time to walk away and begin something new?
I think it's a question every writer eventually asks him/herself. I mean, how can we not? We put ourselves out there in the most vulnerable way, expressing our thoughts, our emotions and the stories that make us who we are today. Without such deep contribution to our work, it can easily fall flat, bordering on two-dimensional. So, with so much vested in the books we write, when is the right time to walk away without feeling like we're actually taking the easy way out of being dragged down by our own sense of perfectionism?
Being a perfectionist myself, I can tell you what I told Garrett. Only we can judge for ourselves when the time is right. I still remember when it began for me. The day I first started working on David Thorne, back in 2003. It started with my drawing a creature I created, which I still have. She'll make her debut appearance in book four (I believe it's four, if not five). I remember so clearly, sitting there, in bed, with a sketch pad leaning against my legs, pencil in hand, my mind filled with a sense of giddiness I hadn't felt before. So I drew her, thinking, "Is this ever going to be anything?". Then, it was like the floodgates opened, and out came a million other creatures, characters, ideas, names, story lines. But most importantly, possibilities. I loved it. I literally thought about the book (and the series as a whole) 24 hours a day, driving, cooking, shopping. It didn't matter. I was consumed.
When I told my mom about my new venture, which in all honesty, had been brewing in me since I was a kid, she asked when I'd start writing (I was still in the development stage). I told her what I'd told my hubby on day one. "I'll start writing it when I know I'm ready." And so I did....exactly one year coincidentally...from the day I drew that first creature. In that year, I developed the characters, their back stories, the world, the magic, the history of the magicals and the tales that brought them to present day. I even created stores, shops, restaurants, the food they ate, the music they listened to, the hobbies they had, how they played. I mean, every conceivable detail. And when I was done, I started writing the first book.
Interestingly, the original first book was nearly 700 pages. I finished it three months later and when I was done, I actually sat back and smiled. I thought I would explode. I ran to my hubby and shouted over and over, "I did it! I finished! I wrote a book!" He was so happy for me. But then he said something that I will never forget, as it still haunts me today (and we still laugh about it to no end, believe me).
He said, and I quote, "Now the hard part starts."
I looked at him like he was crazy. He'd been there with me every step of the way as I worked on this book. He knew how much of myself I'd put into it. That was the hard part, fun as it was. But I wrong. Not about the fun aspect of creating and writing DT. But about the hard part beginning with typing that last word in the book.
Of course, the next day, it made sense. That was when I started the dreaded editing process. A process every writer hates more than bomb-wielding nut-jobs. Okay, maybe not that much, but you get the idea. I went through that book over and over, changing this and rewriting that for six months. And when I was done, it was sightly longer, though tighter. That's when I began looking up agents and publishers. I'd never done anything like that before, so just seeing the term Literary Agent online made me squeal like a school girl, and it yet terrified me. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Was I in over my head? I'm nobody. Did I really think I could do this? I mean, what the heck's a query letter? What's a synopsis? What bio? It was all so foreign to me. But I dove in and learned as much as I could through Google searches and writing forums. The most unnerving thing I uncovered was that my 119k word middle grade book was waaaay too long for that market, and even longer still for a debut novel.
So I took two chapters out of the book, and wrote an entirely new one around it. THAT became the current first book in the series, and what was left behind became book two. So it actually worked out beautifully. But of course, now I had to start rewriting and reediting all over again. My blood curdled just thinking about it, what with all the rounds of edit and rewrites I'd just gone through with the original book. But it had to be done, so again, I dove in, head first. It took a long time to get it to where it is now, and even today, I can't go back and look at it because I know, as a perfectionist, it will never be perfect.
"Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned." -Oscar Wilde
How true is that? Oh god! So, I walked away. Honestly, I love the book as is. I'm immensely proud of it. So I say to all authors who ask themselves if it's okay to put it down and start something new: Just do it, because when that last breath leaves us one day, the last thing we want to say is, "I wrote A book."
One more thing I'd like to add before I end this. I want to thank my hubby for always being there for me. Ready with amazing ideas and unending inspiration, support and love. Without him, I would never had be able to push ahead. I know how that sounds, but he has always been there, ready to give me his thoughtson every aspect I approached him about. Never judging. Laughing with me, not at me. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
So, it's important to have a great support system.
What about your journey? Are you a perfectionist? Share it here and inspire others with YOUR story.