Edit Pass Live Stage 3: Finding Enthusiasm

I want to admit something, in the interest of documenting the whole procedure of editing and rewriting.

I really love the concepts in tKC. I really want to see it finished. There are some characters I have become very attached to, and I really want to have this story to the point where I can just do my normal edit passes, both for the blog, and for myself.

But honestly? Right now, I really don’t love the project. I’m really having trouble finding the headspace for it.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and let me be clear on this – I don’t think, for me, it’s a sign that I need to stop trying to write it for a while. That’s not how my process works. If I feel out of love with a project it’s usually a sign that I need to write it more, not less. Usually if I can find a way to get back into the groove of the project, things start going a lot smoother.

For me, falling out of love with a project usually means one of a few things.

First possibility, it’s been a while since I wrote and I need to get back into it. I just need to get the sense of it back.

Second possibility, something’s not fitting right, and I need to have another look at the characters or the plot and readjust.

Third possibility, I’m just feeling unmotivated in general.

Since I just did my last round of course corrections, I am going to rule out the second possibility for now, especially since this first section of the story seemed very solid while I was timelining it out. If I’d gotten a ways in and started to feel a bit down about the project, then I’d be considering it, but given where I am and the context, I really think I’m just lacking general motivation, and that with work and deadlines recently I need to get back into the project.

I also think that it’s this project in particular I’ve got a bit of a block on, because of how this has panned out. I don’t know if I mentioned this at the start – apologies if I did, but for those who weren’t here to see the start of this little experiment, this is a story that I’ve been working on for … lessee … probably about four years now, on and off. That’s hardly unusual for me, and to put it in perspective, I’ve written at least four other first draft novels since then and several other edit passes, so I’ve hardly been working on this consistently or even for most of the time. But the thing is, the last five years have covered my journey as a writer from just after the end of high school till now. I know it doesn’t feel like it ‘til after you’ve lived it, but those first years of your twenties? Real game-changers. I wrote some of the best stuff I’ve ever written in those years. But I also realised coming out of those years that every single thing I wrote deeply needed rewriting. My ideas had solidified and to an extent my style, but my execution was still deeply flawed. Which is fine, that’s life, that’s how things go. But tKC was something I wrote in the very beginning of that period, which means that it’s gone through two rewrites before this (that is, this is the fourth time I’ve drafted this project).

A lot of people have said that writing is sort of like having to balance being incredibly self-important and having incredibly low self-esteem, somehow about the same things and at the same time. And that’s kind of how I feel about tKC sometimes.

I love this book. I love this world. I love these characters. I love how they’ve changed and how they’ve developed and I love what’s going to happen to them, at least what I can see of it with the work I’ve done so far. I wholeheartedly believe in this story, and I hope that when it’s released, that will translate to the readers being as entranced as I am. But equally and at the same time, for a long time I have felt very unsure about my ability to actually tell the story.

A long time ago, I gave up on a story because the story that it needed to be and the story that I wanted to write were two very different things. I could have changed the story so that it was a good story, but in doing that, I would have lost the core of feelings and ideas that I wanted to convey with it. A friend of mine is now writing that story, and they are writing the story that it should have been from the beginning. I’m excited to see how it turns out. But I really don’t regret acknowledging that my commitment was elsewhere, and I would never have been able to be happy with the story if I had changed it that way.

That’s not how I feel about tKC. Actually, the more I think about the story, the more it actually becomes closer to the core of the things I wanted to express. The characters and the ideas are converging, not diverging. So that’s not a problem this time.

I really think it’s a combination of the fact that I’ve written this one so many times, a few lingering uncertainties I have about a couple of the characters, and the fact that I’ve had to drop it for a while because of work that’s got me feeling uncertain about this story.

I think the solution for me is not just to try and barge in and work it out – I think that’s definitely Step 2, but I feel like Step 1 is to spend a little time really getting back to the heart of why I wanted to write the story in the first place. I’ve been dancing around it a little bit with the outlining at the moment. I’ve been doing a lot of deciding how the good bits stick together, and not a lot of work on the good bits themselves. I might go ranting to some friends and loved ones about the characters for a bit. Maybe I’ll go back and reread a couple of scenes that I really liked (and that don’t need too much rewriting, so I won’t be distracted by wanting to change them much). I might go and do a couple of exercises putting the characters in different situations, for something a bit different. I might even get some willing victi – I mean, friends to pose questions for or about the characters, or about the world, so that I can think about things from different angles. And I’ll definitely just spend a couple of days dwelling on the setting and some plot things, not so I can solve problems, but just so I can get back into the habit of thinking about that world and characters.

Moral of the story: It sometimes happens that I fall out of love with a story – not often to this extent, but it happens. And I know that if I put off writing it, it won’t solve anything. I’m not the sort of person who waits around for inspiration – I find the less I write, the less often I feel inspired. This is different to when I’m overworked or burned out – that’s when I really do need to take time off. But just keeping on when I don’t feel ‘in love’ with the story doesn’t always mean beating my head on the wall of the draft either. Usually, if it doesn’t mean I need to adjust something about the story, it means I need to adjust something about my approach, or how I’m thinking about the story. It actually usually means I forgot to have fun, somewhere along the way, or I’ve been thinking of all the fine tuning, or the craft aspects, and not enough about the actual story. The important thing, for me, is identifying the source of my lack of enthusiasm and seeing if it’s something deep about the story, or whether it’s something about me that needs to change, and not giving up on the story unless it’s the last possible option.

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