It seems the themes at the Girlfriends Book Club of late are keeping me honest…this time around? How do I finish the book I'm writing? That's a hell of a question!
This easily segues from my post last month, in which I think I first spoke about The Book (make that manuscript). This would be the one I've picked up and put down countless times over the past several years. It has transformed and been revised myriad times (I should say chapters here and there have been revised, since not enough has been written to constitute it being an actual book revision (insert laughter here). My first chapter alone has had so many incarnations it might well be mistaken for a cat plowing through those nine lives.
Believe me, I have had plenty of reasons to give up on this thing. I think what's kept me coming back to it is when I've eventually reviewed the chapters here and there that I've written, I am pleasantly surprised and -- dare I say it -- impressed with what I've written. It's what motivates me: it's been like passing a kidney stone the size of an elephant. I'd hate to go through all that pain without a positive outcome.
I have had many days in which I struggle for each sentence. This is so abnormal for me. I used to be able to crank out books with no hesitation. I could not write for months on end, then sit down and binge-write, and crank out the book I'd intended. But this book, it's stymied me. During the course of writing this, I've vacillated, I've alternated, I've roamed hither and yon in the quest to figure out what it was I was writing. Used to be I'd write a book in a fairly linear manner. I knew my starting point and I knew my ending, and the rest sort of sprung up organically. With this one, I've changed my intent, changed my theme, changed my characters, changed their jobs, changed their relationship, changed other characters, changed the intended outcome. Right now I'm still undecided about the final outcome and as I'm nearing a deciding point, I still can't pick which one is the best plan of action.
But the great thing is I'm finally nearing that point, a point at which I never thought this book would reach.
I put this book down so many times for a variety of reasons. Other jobs got in the way of it. Dealing with marketing and publicizing other books posed obstacles. Life events added more roadblocks. And then there were times I was so purely stuck, I just couldn't figure it out, and procrastination seemed an easier solution.
But I need to finish it. I can't let this half-written tome languish in my laptop, never to find an audience. I need to finish it so that I can have the satisfaction of tackling the untackleable. And so I have struggled through this thing, sometimes one word at a time.
Frustratingly, when I've returned to it after putting it away yet again, I have to pore through the entire thing, mulling over the slightest changes, refining and attempting to make this thing the best it can be. It's become my Moby Dick (insert more laughter here). Yikes -- maybe it's like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction when you think she's dead but she pops up yet again with that butcher knife.
Sometimes I allow myself to get sidelined by the what ifs. What if I can't find a publishing house for it? What if this book isn't "big" enough? Big, high concept books get the attention of your publishing house, whereas lesser ones flounder and die if you publish through mainstream houses. But now I am happy to know that if I can't weed through the finicky world of mainstream publishing anymore, I'll just publish it myself. And it'll be a terrific novel and people will enjoy it.
When I first started this book, self-doubts brought on by this Goldilocksian publishing industry really undermined my confidence, and allowed me to allow myself to be distracted by the potential for failure. But now I'm motivated to a) make this book the best it can be, b) sell it well, whether that is through a New York house or on my own, and c) finish it now. No more dithering. With each word I've squeezed out of my brain, with each chapter I've concluded, with each page I've counted as complete, I build in confidence and in knowing that this work in particular I earned, through the blood, sweat and tears it took to get me there.
So how to I motivate myself through? I just do it. I need to succeed with this, I can't let my self-doubts get the better of me. I can't let external forces drive my end results. I can only control what I can control, and that means the final words on the page.
I remember years ago hearing John Grisham talk about having to put your butt in the chair and write, every single day, that you're not really a writer if you don't do that. Back then I didn't buy into that concept because I didn't write in that way; I wrote in blasts, then nothing, and that used to work. But now, I'm subscribing to the butt in chair school of writing, and you know what? He's right. You can't publish it if it's not written.
So now, back to work…I'll keep you posted!
Sleeping with Ward Cleaver
Slim to None
Anywhere But Here
Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me
Accidentally on Purpose (written as Erin Delany)
Compromising Positions (written as Erin Delany)
I'm Not the Biggest Bitch in this Relationship (I'm a contributor)
And these shorts:
Idol Worship: A Lost Week with the Weirdos and Wannabes at American Idol Auditions
The Gall of It All: And None of the Three F's Rhymes with Duck
Naked Man On Main Street
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