When I drove out to an isolated canyon in The Mojave Desert Preserve last year, the thrill was exhilarating as well as a little nerve-racking. I had only seen the place on maps. This was an entirely new place for me. I don’t always like new things so I was pretty anxious by the time I got there. And now, I’m in uncharted territory again.
Standard hedonistic theory states that if it feels good, do it, and if it doesn’t feel good, avoid it. This may come as a surprise, but here is pretty much why I write. It feels good. I went through two drafts of Sidewinder, the second draft being more fun than the first. Last week’s blog explained that I was going to start up the memoir again, but instead choose to do a third draft of Sidewinder.
That’s what I’ve done, starting by laying the printed copy in front of me with several highlighters and a ball-point pen. I’m reading over scene by scene, deciding what to keep, what to lose and what to change. I’m taking notes and figuring out how to tighten scenes and add tension to the novel overall. I don’t use my laptop when I work, just my iPod for music. And it’s not as fun.
This is different from the composition stages before. Reading over these scenes, making notes and figuring changes is taking longer than it took to type them. I’m not sitting at my laptop, fingers wailing away with music in my ears where the real mojo has been. This is real work. Not that I dislike it, it’s just different. I’m trying to figure a system of how to edit now. I’m continuing to study the craft, reading books about writing. But I stated the truth before, I’m in uncharted territory now.
Why am I making it hard on myself? I’ve got new story ideas. I could be writing them. I’ve got a few other novels that I could be sitting and typing second drafts of. Or here’s a thought that pricks my brain like a thorn in my sock, I could sleep in every morning until 7. I could just give up writing all together and find something else to do with my time. No, instead I’m laying books and papers out in front of me, doing something I’ve never done before? What am I hoping for?
Here’s the difficult truth for me: For three years I hoped for Naomi to be healed from her cancer. I had such a positive attitude, refusing to believe anything else, that it sustained me. The power of positive thinking kept me going, but it didn’t cure her.
Now here I am with a printed second draft of a novel. And I have to ask myself, do I really want to go on? The real dirty work begins now with the serious editing. I have to ask, does Sidewinder have the potential? Do I have what it takes to write something publishable?
So here is what I believe, Sidewinder has potential. The story is fun to read. The characters are well-developed and the conflict is believable. But there are bloated parts of the story, one character is too flat and unlikeable and the ending is too quick. I have to do real work in order to transform this into what I want it to be, which is what? I could publish on Amazon Kindle. Or I could actually query agents. There, I said it.
The big question is this: Do I have what it takes? And the answer is, I don’t know. I’m in uncharted territory here. If it was a sure thing, the work would be easier. What if I spend the next 4-5 months on this and my work just isn’t good enough? Will it have been worth it? I don’t know, because I don’t know if I want to imagine that.
I don’t know.
So… one more question, can I bring myself to think positively here? Because this is really what my whole blog post is about. I don’t like to think positive about things I’m not sure about. I don’t like to be disappointed. I would rather just resign myself to be realistic.
Is that what this is all about? Is this towering third draft going to be a lesson to me about stepping out in faith? It looks that way. (Funny, that’s not a major theme in Sidewinder, but it ought to be.) If I want this bad enough, I will have to think positive. Okay… here goes