I've learned a lot about myself as a writer over the past year. Well, two years, really...ever since I started writing seriously. But the learning has gone all bat-shit crazy recently. Which has been, I think (I hope!) a good thing.
When I wrote my first novel, the hardest part was just sitting down to write every day. Getting SOMETHING down on the page. I didn't think so much about WHAT.
Now, with my third novel, EVERYTHING is hard. I'm pretty sure that means I'm getting better. (That's what I tell myself, anyway.) When I was starting out and was less aware of all the choices I was making as I wrote, it was easy to make arbitrary decisions and roll with them, whether they were the right ones or not. Now, with a little more experience, I'm increasingly aware of the impact of each and every decision I make in my writing.
To be honest, it's terrifying.
Because, I've discovered two things.
1) I am NOT the kind of writer who will sit back and work everything out FIRST, before writing. I learn by doing...which translates into learning by making mistakes. LOTS of mistakes.
2) I am blessed - and cursed - with a very decisive authorial voice. Whether I'm committed to them or not, my choices generally feel very INTENTIONAL in my writing. The curse part of this, of course, is that if I HAVEN'T thought something through, and it's the WRONG choice...it can really turn off a reader (see below re: rewriting my main character)
It shouldn't have shocked me to discover that I'm a learn by doing writer - after all, I'm a learn by doing PERSON (just ask MAJOR HOTSAUCE. It took dating him THREE TIMES over 8 years for me to FINALLY figure out that he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. d'oh!). But it DID surprise me. I have critique partners and friends who write a novel, revise it once or twice, and it's sold! (YAY!! :-)) I kept thinking I was doing something wrong when it didn't work that way for me.
But it's NOT about doing something wrong. It's about doing something DIFFERENTLY. Because no one writes a book - or lives her life - the same way. Over the past year, I have learned - by lots and LOTS of doing - the beauty of revisionland. I'm on draft #10 of my latest novel...and at least three of those versions were almost complete rewrites. With this story, I realized early on it was a big, complicated story, with many different possible ways to tell it. And I dove in, without considering the ramifications of many of my authorial decisions.
As a result, in addressing one subplot, I went from a few chapters, to 17k, to three short vignettes, before I found the RIGHT way to tell that part of the story.
And, as a result, I'm rewriting much of my main character, including her fundamental motivations. Yes, in draft 10.
It's frustating, not getting it "right" the first time. Accepting that the revising part of writing this book has taken 8 times as long as the drafting part. I can't even think about all the words I've thrown onto the page just to cut a draft or two later.
But it's also comforting, the revelation that THIS is the way I work. For better or worse, I'm a learn by doing writer. I can embrace this about myself, instead of fighting it by giving up on projects too soon. Yeah, I'm kinda hoping that as I get further into my career, I'll learn how to plan out some of my authorial choices a little better, but I also know what it feels like now, to have found a story WORTH this kind of work. And because I've done the work, I HAVE found the right way to tell the story. If, at draft 10, I can fall in love with my characters and my world all over again, surely an editor or two will. Surely these characters are worth loving.
And when, someday, I DO get an editorial letter, I'll be ready. Cuz hey. Revising isn't scary. I know ALL ABOUT Revisionland. ;-)
Are you the type of writer who works out all the kinks before you write? One or two drafts and you're done? Or are you a learn by doing...and doing...and doing kind of writer? What have YOU learned about yourself through the revision process?