Trust And Production

I have trust issues.

I also usually have issues when I’m editing a book.

These two things are not unrelated.

I’ve realized that I always get hung up in the editing process of a book because I don’t trust myself, which in turn makes me doubt my work. In the past, this has meant I rewrite the same book over and over again just because I doubt that it’s good enough.

You do need to work with first drafts, of course.  At the very least, there are usually problems that need to be addressed or a lack of clarity that needs to be resolved.  Not many people can spit out the first draft of a novel that’s good as it is.  But this rewriting, tweaking, and problem-solving has to be done with a cool head, not one that’s screaming it’s all crap and needs to change.

For better or worse, the first draft is the underlying structure of what the story will be.  If you make massive changes to this structure, you are basically writing another story.  And if that’s what has to happen, most of the time you’d be better off scrapping it and starting over, rather than taking the time to bend and twist what you have into a radically different vision.

Sometimes you do need to scrap the story.

But sometimes you’re bending and twisting it just because you doubt the underlying thing that’s already there.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like life?  Sometimes you’re laying groundwork, and you have to scrap it.  But sometimes you’re throwing away what’s there simply because you doubt it.

When I’m finished with the first draft of a novel, I tend to get stuck, and that’s going to have to change.  I can’t get hung up in editing for years because I doubt the story I’ve written is worthwhile.  If it’s that bad, I need to start over, not groom it like a mama chimp looking for fleas on her young.

I get stuck in editing because I don’t trust my first draft to identify the story.  I don’t trust myself to have expressed the story.  And so I keep thinking I need to change it to make it better, more perfect.  Then most of the time I have to change it back.

On the other hand, when I write a blog post or a newsletter, I don’t second guess myself nearly as much.  I edit, but I rarely pick them apart.   This gives me confidence, even though writing a novel is a much more complicated process.

I’m coming up some ideas of how to streamline my editing process, which I’ll share after I see the results.  But more importantly, here are my first steps to move beyond the trap of my own insecurities when it comes to editing a novel-

Trust the planning I did before I started the first draft

Trust the first draft to have roughed out that planning

Trust that I am able to tell an entertaining story.

Trust that even if this is not the best story in the world, or even a very good one, it won’t be the last one I tell.

Evaluate the existing first draft with a cool head.

And move forward.





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