The Morass: Letting Go

As I venture into my second R&R, I have one less weapon in my depository. Which is good because this weapon injured no one but myself.

I was (well, I’ll always be, because creators always are) way, way, phenomenally way too close to my work. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids too close. It was virtually impossible to craft a tight narrative because all I could see were the bits and pieces that created the whole. A lot of these bits and pieces might make sense if you’re talking about a real person’s history, but even autobiographies have narrative. I was basically just planting one thing here, one thing there, developing a character without crafting the shape of that development into, I dunno, a story.

Because I was way too close. Way too attached. After years of living and breathing in this creative universe, where certain events had to happen because I ALREADY SAID SO BEFORE, I was completely handicapped. I mean, it’s not as though I didn’t realize this at the time I started outlining the novel (because I knew enough to create antagonistic forces that weren’t there before), but I was reeeallly reluctant to think much about it. I just didn’t want it to really be true, all the while knowing it was. If writing feels like checking off a list of things, then it’s not good writing. And it’s not fun to do.

The second R&R didn’t identify anything surprising. What it did was to put a finger on the specifics. And it woke me up, too. The other reason I was so ready to flip a switch in my head was because I had spent a year away from the damn thing, focusing on grad school, a new city, new friends. Removing myself from the immersion and escapism of the previous nine years was useful in ways I didn’t expect.

First of all, I am far more ready to shake things up. I am far more ready to take things out, move things around, obliterate and destroy. Not that I never tortured my darlings before, but the momentum of the story and certain events just had to be there, untouched. Well, NOT ANYMORE.

Besides the second R&R, I had extra eyes reading the manuscript last summer. It’s been difficult to get volunteers to finish the entire thing (though my mom had invaluable advice about the first couple of parts of the story), so Michael’s dedication was immense and really, really helpful. He left notes everywhere, and his storytelling skills are always on point, so he could see the big picture and lobbed questions at me about plot, character, and the direction everything was going, challenging me to rethink. Challenging me to turn my mind to structure and pacing. Oh, structure. Oh, pacing. How I neglected you.

There always comes a point of loathing when writing (or illustrating) something. When you’ve looked at it way too much. Spent way too much time with it. And it doesn’t mean that you’ve done the wrong thing or you’re creating something terrible. I can’t say I ever reached that point so much as I felt like I was trapped by years of of development and world-building that wasn’t done so with a novel in mind. Yes, I wrote novel-length things about different characters for many a NaNoWriMo and personal project, but as I said before, not once was this about publication. That was always later, later. Until it wasn’t later anymore and I had all of this Stuff that was better suited to round-robin pleasure writing and creating consistent visual imagery. (Hey, that’s a thing: all of this work was nothing but positive for my illustrations!)

So all of this brings me to where I am now. In December 2014, I began what I hope will be the biggest and best edits. I didn’t make it very far into the first quarter of the story, but it’s already moving easier. Then, when January came along, I put it all on hold again for the last semester of grad school. And then I got a chance to take my middle grade thesis project out into the world, but that’s another post for another day.

Poor Spectacular. I’ve got you on my mind, don’t you worry.

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