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IWSG: It’s Alive!

August 6, 2014

It lives. It breathes, and it’s ready to take on the world.Image courtesy of David Jones @ Stock.xchng Or is it?

No, I’m not talking about my lifeless blog–although I can see why you might think that. I’m talking about my novel, and I’m worried …

This InsecureWritersSupportGroupmonth’s insecurity is brought to you by the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a whole bunch of awesome created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers (like me!) who have issues with their self-confidence. Are you insecure too? Fear not! Just click on the linky and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the web.

So, about my novel.

Last month I got back the last of my reader critiques for The Tempest’s Serenade and was thrilled that everyone seemed to like the story. Some readers were confused– some were very confused– but in general they found the characters to be compelling and the concept interesting enough to keep them turning the pages. I’m excited to start in on my next revision. It was scary to share a story that I felt was so broken, but I’m really glad I took the plunge.

Except …

Courtesy of 'magicmarie' @ stock.xchngeSomething surprising came up in the critiques. I’m finding that more than one reader has strongly suggested that, after nothing more than a polishing pass and a run through spell check, I self-publish The Tempest’s Serenade as it stands right now.

That’s wonderful, right?

Then why do I want to curl up into a ball muttering, “No No No No No no nonononononono …”?

How could I in good conscience perpetrate this mess upon the world? My readers are confused by the story. Hell, I’m confused by the story.

I had to walk away from my computer after I read that suggestion and do something else. I pulled the weeds out of my front yard. I took a long walk in the woods. And I pondered. Should I take that advice? Am I simply dragging my feet on this story? Should I let it go and move on to something else?

Eventually after consulting my playlist (where my Muse lives), I pulled myself together and realized that, ultimately, I am the warden of my own stories. No one else, not even writers I respect, can tell me what to do with them. I don’t even think an agent or a publisher can push me in a direction I don’t want to go in. I need to learn to be true to my vision, even if that vision is still fuzzy.

Does that make me an uppity artisté? Does that mean I will never make a dime writing fiction?

Good thing I like my day job, isn’t it? Because I’ve decided to be true to myself and proceed with another revision. I didn’t sit down to write A Story; I sat down to write this one. And I need to stop and think before I do something that feels wrong for me. Putting The Tempest’s Serenade out into the world with so many loose ends is something that feels wrong to me on a fundamental level.

Will I know when it’s finished? I think so. I hope so.

How about you, insecure writers? How do you know when it’s time to send your story out into the world? Am I crazy to keep banging away at this story?

Toy image courtesy of David Jones, thumbs up image courtesy of ‘magicmarie’ both @ Stock.xchng

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44 Comments
  1. August 6, 2014 6:59 am

    This is the heart of it, isn’t is Kristen? We’re all good, I think, with not taking negative advice from readers- don’t let them push your story where it doesn’t want to go, etc. But what story doesn’t want to get told? So it’s harder to resist this positive advice- it’s great, get it out there. Even your own story is against you!
    But there must be something behind that bit of smoke in your soul that you told us about. I think you should indeed wait, at least until you can see what that hesitation is. It could be you’ll find that it’s something which doesn’t stand in the way of publication. But I would advise, hesitantly, that you might not even wish to start the revision until you’ve unmasked it.
    I re-read my latest tale (going out now as four novellas over time) probably four times after it was thoroughly polished. Seriously, several re-reads just wondering… and I did take out maybe another 200 words none of which would have broken the tale. But I DID realize that towards the end, when lots of stuff happens in different places on the same night, that there was a slightly better chapter order I should be using. So you never know.
    In the end, someone famous said you’re never done writing your novel, you just stop. I see no reason you can’t stop in between too, while you think it out and hopefully see what that objection is. All the best!

    • August 6, 2014 8:03 pm

      Great thoughts on this, Will!
      I think I might be more worried about my hesitation if more of my readers had caught on to what I’m trying to get across, but they didn’t and I don’t blame them. I actually only shared the story because I felt I needed input.
      It really helped! I’m pretty sure that I have what I need to make the story work this time through. 🙂
      Your stories sound fascinating, BTW. I’ll be checking them out!

  2. August 6, 2014 8:00 am

    When it’s really done and really ready, you will know. Trust your instincts.

    • August 6, 2014 8:04 pm

      Thank you so much for this, Alex. Feedback from published authors is exactly what I need right now! It’s good to know my instincts are right on target.

  3. melissamaygrove permalink
    August 6, 2014 8:19 am

    I don’t think one is ever 100% certain of when it’s time to stop editing, but one almost always knows when it’s *not*.

    My 2c? Heed your gut. If even you, the author, are confused, you need to edit until the story is clear. Your line-by-line writing and your characterization / description (going on your blog posts) are WONDERFUL. But that won’t carry a story with a confusing plot, at least not for some readers.

    Don’t get into perpetual editing mode and never publish, but don’t put your story out before it’s ready either. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. 😉

    IWSG #184 until Alex culls the list again.

    • August 6, 2014 8:07 pm

      You pretty much nailed this, Melissa, because that’s exactly the kind of feedback that I’m getting. My readers loved the characterization and the descriptions, but the plot is … messy.
      I do feel that I’m getting closer with each revision though! There is light at the end of this tunnel. 🙂

  4. Loni Townsend permalink
    August 6, 2014 9:10 am

    I fully support your decision to wait. You should be proud of your work, and if it’s creating a qualm, then giving it another revision won’t hurt you any. You know what your story should be like. Stay strong and revise on!

    Loni

    • August 6, 2014 8:10 pm

      🙂 Yay! It’s sometimes hard for me to figure out who to listen to (because I want to be a ‘teachable’ writer) but it sure helps to weigh the costs of waiting and working some more against the perils of seeking publication too soon.
      I’m beginning to see that I can trust my gut on this. 🙂

  5. August 6, 2014 9:13 am

    Yay, you’re back! For a moment. Maybe as insecure as ever, but back 🙂

    I don’t have any advice, but even with my minuscule posts I typically write and rewrite and, if they still don’t sit well, I go on to others that I never even knew I was thinking about until they come out of the end of my pen. Eventually some “gold nugget” emerges that is the key to finishing the re-write that wasn’t sitting well.

    I don’t know how that translates to your novel except my firm belief that being stuck isn’t a bad thing; you just have to figure out how YOU can work with it. Some tackle head-on; some putter around the edges; some deny it and publish; some move on and let it simmer till the “gold nugget” appears.

    You WILL be able to figure this one out. I’m 110% sure of that.

    • August 6, 2014 8:16 pm

      Writing a blog has helped me so much with the editing process! A few months ago I posted about how my post draft process works, and that’s pretty much the way it works with the novel–except of course the novel is way longer.
      Also, it needs things like plotting and character arcs … which also need editing.
      Good thing I love writing!

      And I’m hoping more posts will make it out of my draft folder and onto this screen in the coming weeks. 🙂

      • August 6, 2014 9:12 pm

        I’ll be right here waiting for you and your El Muse-io 🙂

  6. August 6, 2014 1:49 pm

    I think you’ll know when it’s finished, and you certainly have your CP’s to help you figure it out. Good luck!

    • August 6, 2014 8:18 pm

      Hi Caffe Maggieato,
      CPs are the best. I was terrified to let anyone see my story, but once I got over my insecurity I was hooked. Now I just have to decide which ones to listen too. 🙂
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!

      • August 7, 2014 12:53 pm

        I know what you mean. Most of the time, I’m still terrrified of showing my writing to anyone.

  7. August 6, 2014 3:32 pm

    I think that story has great potential. I think ‘being true to yourself” is something we should do in every walk of our life, not just writing. I think that will make YOU happy, and you will feel good about what you have done once you have made it the best you can make it. Just remember it does not have to be perfect, really no story is ever as good as we think it should be, so when you ready to let it go, let it fly, and as always I think you will be surprised.
    Juneta at Writer’s Gambit

    • August 6, 2014 8:22 pm

      This is such great advice, Juneta, because there are other areas of my life that I do feel good about. I can compare what I’ve done to achieve that with how I feel about this story.
      And I’m definitely prone to falling under the spell of Perfect–which is perhaps the reason I’ve begun to doubt my instincts.
      This story has surprised me a lot already!

  8. August 6, 2014 6:09 pm

    You will regret it if you send your story out into the world before you feel it is ready. Since you love your day job and aren’t desperate to make money or anything, you have no reason to rush. I can totally relate to this as I keep editing a story that seemed done (even to me) a long time ago. I’ve seen too many self-published stories that could have used work to go there yet. I really think you’ll know when it’s ready.

    • August 6, 2014 8:25 pm

      Yes, I know what you mean! Part of that could be that I’m still learning a LOT about writing, and with each pass I see obvious places that I can make the prose better. I would almost be able to let that stuff go, but weak plotting is something I just can’t live with.
      Fortunately, I’m still pretty excited about working on this story some more! 🙂

  9. August 6, 2014 8:25 pm

    You know if you’re ready. I tend to go with my instinct which says don’t act on it if it makes you too nervous. So, for what it’s worth, take another look at TTS. There is NO rush.

    • August 6, 2014 8:29 pm

      I think that what floored me the most was that I really didn’t expect to hear that the story was in publishable shape, because I put it out there for beta readers asking for advice on how to fix it.
      It’s good to know that my instincts are still on track. 🙂 (And that the scenic route is a perfectly acceptable route to publication. 😉 )

  10. Shelly Tennyson Taylor permalink
    August 6, 2014 9:30 pm

    You will know when its done. I don’t know how to explain the feeling, you will just know. And then your mind will be able to think about the next story.

    I too have a day job I enjoy and writing my story is not about throwing words on the page and dumping it on Amazon. I want my story to be the best it can be. It is a reflection of who I am.

    I say go with your gut and revise until you feel free to move on!

    • August 8, 2014 9:02 pm

      Hi Shelly,
      I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who’s nervous about what ends up on Amazon with my name on it! It’s been hard for me to tell whether to keep at it or move on, but it’s been so encouraging to see improvement in the story that I think it will be worth it.
      Thanks for stopping by A Scenic Route! 🙂

  11. August 7, 2014 6:37 am

    You have to trust yourself and writing! 🙂 You’ll know when it’s ready!

    • August 8, 2014 9:04 pm

      Thanks, Mishka! It’s scary being insecure, but I can see that I know more than I thought I did.

  12. August 8, 2014 6:50 pm

    When I worked as a developer in the video game industry, we were never able to “finish” any of the projects I was a part of–the best we could do was get them good enough to ship. Every game that gets published could always be made better–more polish, more bug fixes, more balancing of the combat scenarios and rewards, etc. But no matter how much we try to make something perfect, perfection will always elude us, and there comes a point where its pursuit turns counter-productive. Speaking as a perfectionist, it’s sometimes difficult for me to know when that is 🙂

    I suspect a writing project is no different in this regard. Only you can decide when your book is ready to ship. When that time comes, I think you’ll know. Maybe when most of the fixes you think to make aren’t genuinely better than what you had before…they’re just different. While it might not always be an easy distinction to make, I believe that knowing when to let go and move on to the next project is part of the learning experience that makes us better writers–that makes us better at improving any complex skill set.

    But ultimately, if your instinct is telling you to hold onto your story for another revision pass, I think it’s good to listen to it. I’ve had some pretty good things happen when I followed my instinct without over-thinking what it was telling me 🙂

    • August 8, 2014 9:14 pm

      Hi Mike!
      It’s great to see you around these parts again. 🙂
      I think I get where you’re coming from when you say there’s a point when something is just ready to ship and endless fiddling will not make it any better. Strangely enough, I felt more like that before I even started the revision process! I didn’t know where to start fixing, so I could have just as well put it out there in the mess it was in.
      Now however I have some pretty specific ideas about what I want to change, and know what it will take to implement those changes. Maybe that’s why my instincts protested so vehemently when the suggestion was made to stop revising at this point.
      It’s tough, I think, to still be on the learning curve, when a lot of other writers I know are taking the plunge and publishing. I’m glad I posted about my doubts though, because consensus seems to be that I keep going. 🙂

      I hope everything is going well for you!

      • August 9, 2014 6:09 pm

        Yeah, it sounds like you’re making the smart choice, especially if there are specific items in your draft you know you want to address. I know it can be tough to see other writers publishing stuff when we’re still plugging away and having released anything yet. But we all learn and work at different paces, have different goals, and are at different points on the learning curve when we meet each other in the first place. Some writers may look like they’re hitting their goals faster than we are–and maybe they are–but they could also have been at it longer than us.

        And yeah, I’ve been doing pretty well. Been pretty busy with school and, in fact, it’s derailed my writing productivity for the last few months 😦 But I’m slowly taking steps to get back on the writing train again.

      • August 11, 2014 1:24 pm

        Glad to see that your school is going well! The writing will still be there when you’re done, and I’ll be excited to read it. 🙂

  13. August 11, 2014 9:59 am

    This is certainly great news. If others are recommending publishing your novel, it must be good. What about submitting it to writing competitions? You may find this gives you an additional venue to get feedback, and if you get shortlisted or win, the attention of agents and publishers. If you decide to self publish, it gives you something to add to the marketing of the book. Just a thought 🙂

    • August 11, 2014 1:27 pm

      I’m so glad you wrote this advice, Kristina, because that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’m still waiting to hear the results–but I did final! (I’m not posting about it yet, because I’m curious if I placed at all.) The great thing about being a finalist is that I get feedback from actual editors so I’m pretty excited to get cracking on their suggestions.

      • August 11, 2014 1:43 pm

        Even being a finalist gives you credit. It’s been quite helpful to me so far. Best of luck.

  14. dksalerni permalink
    August 12, 2014 9:50 am

    Good for you! Whether you self-publish your book, query for agents, or submit to publishers on your own, you really need to make sure it’s the best book it can be. If you feel like it’s not ready, then it’s not. The ease of self-publishing has encouraged a lot of writers to take a “this is good enough” position on their writing. I was shocked to read on someone’s blog about how they’d just finished their first draft and had set a deadline of 2 weeks to revise, edit, and polish before publishing. TWO WEEKS? That’s it?

    Take your time and dig deep. You’ll know when it’s ready.

    • August 12, 2014 6:16 pm

      Hi dksalerni,
      Thank you for your awesome comment! (The part of me where I was going ‘No No nonono’ in my post is saying ‘Yes Yes Yesyesyes!’ as I read your thoughts. 🙂 )
      Although I was happy to know that another writer felt the story was ready to publish, I can see that my own misgivings have to take precedence in making such a decision. I’m pretty sure there is more treasure to uncover in this story if I’m willing to dig deep enough. 🙂

  15. August 12, 2014 7:38 pm

    If I waited until I thought my stories were ready for the world, I’d have nothing published. My editors had to rip 18 Things & 18 Truths out of my cold, dead hands & declare, “It is finished!” Even today, I was still wishing I could go back & change some things in 18 Things, lol. I hope you’re better at it than I am 🙂 Good luck, friend!!

    • August 12, 2014 8:42 pm

      Thanks Jamie!
      I know there’s a point where I will have to let go if I want to be published, which is why I dither about this so much! Where is that point? Will I know when I’m there? Ack!
      I have set my finish point on this story at one more revision. If I don’t have it by then, I’m pretty sure I never will …

  16. August 13, 2014 12:45 am

    You could look at an author like Stephen King, still releasing revised versions of The Stand thirty years on 🙂 Sometimes a confusing story is my favorite kind, if a little thought yields its secrets.

    • August 15, 2014 9:40 pm

      No worries. I will always leave a loose end here and there for speculation–as those are my favorite kind of stories. 🙂 But right now, I’m pretty sure it’s just a bit too much of a good thing.

      It sure would be interesting to read a revised version of The Stand!

  17. August 13, 2014 11:38 am

    I’ve heard that some (professional) writers believe that too much revision kills the freshness of the story. And at some point, one more revision feels a little like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. But only YOU can tell when your story has had too much revision or not enough. Trust in yourself.

    • August 15, 2014 9:43 pm

      Hi Nissa!
      Welcome to A Scenic Route. 🙂
      With each pass I can see that I’m keeping a little more of the story the same–so I’m hoping that counts as progress. But I think I know what you mean. There will be a point where I can’t tighten things up anymore. I hope I know when I get there!

  18. August 15, 2014 4:44 pm

    Hi Kirsten – I published a little shout-out post to you and Morpheus today. Just to say I miss you guys 🙂

    • August 15, 2014 9:44 pm

      Thank you so much, Sammy! I miss blogging too.
      (And it makes me wonder how I EVER posted almost every day in April?)
      I’ll be back soon. 🙂

  19. August 15, 2014 9:26 pm

    I just read Sammy D.’s post about you and had to come visit. I have to agree with those who said go with your gut feeling. You’ll know when it’s done. Good luck with it!

    • August 15, 2014 9:46 pm

      Hi Lori,
      Thanks for swinging by A Scenic Route, and for chiming in. The majority seems to think I’ll know when it’s time to let go, and that is helping me so much!
      Isn’t Sammy D. wonderful? 🙂

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