Sorry for the silly title. I read an article this week about the people who write those dramatic headlines for Upworthy. The drama taking place in my head right now seemed to warrant a sensational title of its own.
As you may have guessed, I received the revision notes for MOTHMAN not long ago. There’s a lot to fix, but that’s not what’s tripping me up. I’ve revised projects before. Many times. Many, many times. The difference this time is that the project is under contract. Someone actually plans to give me money for this. Every change I make feels live-or-die important. I fret that each page will be scrutinized, criticized, analyzed–not just by my editor but by eventual, real-life readers. It feels so real this time, because it is.
Let me first reassure my kind, patient editor if she happens to be reading that I’m making progress (no, really!). But never have I so badly needed my own personal schoolmarm to rap my knuckles with a ruler when I stray off task. Or avoid being on task in the first place. I suddenly discover urgent errands to run, closets to reorganize, correspondence to catch up on. I’m simultaneously frustrated by and grateful for interruptions. I tear apart and rebuild the same sentence ten times, then convince myself it was better before I messed with it.
Is there a name for this crippling revision syndrome? For those of you who’ve conquered it, what’s your secret? Fear of failure is an excellent motivator, so I’ll tuck that away and call it Plan B if nothing else proves helpful. But I’d rather learn to work through this like a healthy, teachable human being. Because every once in a while, I’ll polish up a sentence and pat it on the head and send it on back to the paragraph its shares with its brothers and sisters, and lo and behold: it’s pretty good! That’s a great moment. I can actually feel myself grow as a writer, with the proof right there on the page. At least until I read through it again the next day and realize how terrible it is.
Maybe the key is simple persistence. Stubbornness. Refusal to yield. Like every other step in the publishing process. We claw our way up the mountain until we reach the next peak. We take a moment to celebrate and shout words of encouragement to the people still climbing. And we hum, loudly and rather off-key, pretending not to see that next impossible peak stretching ahead into the clouds.
In other news: Congratulations to Amie Norris, winner of FAIR COIN by E.C. Myers, from Tara Dairman’s book giveaway in last week’s post. Yay, Amie!!!
Christine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, THE MOTHMAN’S CURSE, is due out spring 2015 by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.