So I’ve got my book with beta readers. What now?
No, really, what now? For the first time in four(!) years I’ve not had the Work In Progress breathing down my neck (I didn’t take much time away between the first and second drafts) and it’s deeply strange. Not mourning or melancholy, but a kind of like an engine running to go nowhere. I need to feed my hungry mind.
The standard writers’ response is: start the next book! Which is smart career-wise and certainly possible as my plot idea folder is overflowing. But I need a break from long-form writing. Blogging and book reviews will continue cranking out as scheduled. Hell, maybe I’ll do some discovery writing or toss out a fanfic just for giggles.
I promised myself a sewing project so I’m trying to do that, but find myself wheel-spinning because I have too many options. Good thing I need new measurements because I can put off making a decision.
One thing I am doing is sticking to my resolution to learn by doing and be useful while I’m doing so. To these ends I’m critiquing and beta reading as I’m asked and able. I’ve given Scribophile a lot of attention and need to get back to my local writer’s group.
What about you? Ever feel like an engine raring to go without a map?
OMG. OMG. As of this post I’m down to the last eight scenes in my second draft(!) This is wonderful. This is terrifying.
I’ve spent 3 days trying to congeal my anxiety into a post while John Adamus nails my mood in 140 characters.
Nonetheless, my own blatherings: Second draft = putting the whole thing in front of beta readers time. Structural errors that I could excuse as “covered in another chapter” when readers only read excerpts will now be writ large. Shallow emotions, poor cause and effect, loose ends, red herrings: all will be glaringly obvious in context.
I know – it’s why one has beta readers. I’m just nervous that these errors won’t only reveal what I need to fix but what I can’t. Maybe because it’s beyond my ability. Maybe because who am I to write about people like I understand how they work, how dare I?
In short, I’m afraid of what the story will say about me as a person, rather than about my ability to write.
A wise friend once told me about my fencing that no single competition defines one’s worth as a fencer or as a person–a crucial distinction for me as I too often conflate what I do with who I am. It’s no different with writing. If my book sucks it doesn’t mean I’m an awful person.
But if it sucks too badly to salvage it does mean I’ve spent four years on a cold, dead turkey. Which is a lovely “learning experience” but it sure as hell won’t feel like it.
But at the end of my chat with Mr. Adamus he posed the question:
The goal is making this book as good as I can before seeking a professional editor. But to do that I need other eyes to notice the things I can’t anymore.
I’m going to get there by [cringe] putting it out there and letting beta readers rip it to shreds. Even if it hurts. Even if they tell me things I don’t want to hear.
What about you? In your endeavors, do you ever freeze to a point that you just can’t finish what you started? How did you move past it?