I am done counting the WPR weeks. I have accepted the fact that I am not projected to catch up on my word count based on those weeks. Please don't be disappointed in me! I did make it to 30K, and no I am not quitting on The Gilded Cage! The 'fast-first-draft', however, just wasn't working for me for this particular story, so I knew I had to change things up. The plot is more intricate than I expected which burned my brain out quickly when trying to keep up with the threads.
A few weeks ago when I was wallowing in despair, a CP offered to read what I had so far to give me feedback which I happily accepted! I sent off my rough pages, and while waiting, I made a six page outline of the plot so I could bounce off ideas with her. Since I had yet to hear from her I thought I should continue drafting since I had an outline to work off of. I added about 7K more but then I got stuck, again. Something felt off, just as it had felt off when I got stuck the first time around and sent off the rough pages to my CP. I contributed it to doubt making me second guess myself, but it had been five years since I started writing novel-length works. Hadn't I learned something? Shouldn't I trust my gut? Shouldn't I have cultivated some type of intuition by now?
Suffice it to say, I stepped away from my WIP yet again, and picked up old manuscripts. I delved into my trunked stories starting with the first and worst and immediately cringed. I read a few passages and then moved onto the next story and the next. Some were left unfinished, some thoroughly revised, but funny enough, I could see why they didn't lead to publication. With what I'd learned over the years, I could pinpoint exactly why an old MS of mine's wasn't working. So why couldn't I see what was wrong with my WIP? I'd obviously improved, yet why is it that writing had become harder than ever?
I think it came down to this: I know I can do better. I know I can be better. So when I don't see it reflected on the page, I get discouraged. But it's a first draft, right? It's supposed to be vomit. Just get it out. Right? For TGC, I couldn't do that. The last two manuscripts I'd done that process and what did it leave me with? Numerous rewrites! Instead of deepening the story in each draft, I basically ripped it to shreds and rewrote the whole thing multiple times! It was exhausting work, and I know writing is a lot of rewriting, but it seemed so inefficient! It drove me mad. I couldn't go there again. So what was I to do?
Going back to the old manuscripts, I picked up the one that had gotten me close to my dreams: Diamond Queen. It was one of my best works though it could still be improved (revising is endless). I missed how enjoyable the writing experience was for this one. The story, the characters, I just knew it without realizing it because it had always been a book I'd wanted to write. It had always been ready for me, it just took me being ready to get it down. So maybe that was the difference? It had the time to develop and marinate in my head and my heart before I even got it on the page. And once I did get to the page, it felt as if it had written itself because I'd already told myself the story many times.
So maybe that's what I was missing. This love, this deep intimacy of knowing my story, of this impulse to get it out. Maybe that's what was missing for TGC.
Knowing that, I knew I was not ready to face my WIP. Deep down, I've been holding TGC at an arms length, not wanting to get my hopes up again.
Then two weekends ago, Michael and I went to go see Echosmith in concert. One of their songs, 'Tell Her You Love Her' heavily influenced one of my old manuscripts. As I sat there, listening to the song live, I thought about how the years had passed since I had written that story. Between that time, the band themselves had been on hiatus trying to figure out the sound of their sophomore album. I found that I didn't really connect with the sophomore album, but I did connect with their struggle to find their 'sound' because I had been struggling the past two years to find my 'voice'. And yeah, my sophomore stuff after DQ was very experimental, but it pushed me as a writer, and I learned so much from it. The manuscripts weren't 'the one' but they were stepping stones to 'the one' (or at least, that's what I am telling myself).
This weekend, Michael pushed me to go on a date with him (to be honest, I haven't been able to bring myself out of the house much--bad wifey, I know), but because he is wonderful and I knew we needed it, I went and I had a good time. We ended the date by going to the bookstore, and I picked up a craft book, Story Genius, hoping it could enlighten me. I spent the weekend reading from cover to cover, but it was just what I needed to get some much needed clarity.
The reason why I couldn't move forward with my MS, was because something was wrong in the pages I'd already written. A plot point or an emotional beat wasn't leading me down the right path which resulted in a ripple effect. I needed to go back and fix that before I could move on and the ripple effect became to large to contain. I realized this plot was too intricate for me to rush through. It needed careful planning. If I barreled ahead, I would be screwing myself by writing a ton of words that I would end up rewriting anyway. No, this was not a fast first draft story, and my gut was telling me so by getting me stuck every time by telling me to stop and think about what I was doing instead of simply getting to my word count.
This was a layered story, and I was not doing it justice. I'd put my guard up, not wanting to get too close or too attached to this story or the characters in fear that this WIP was again, not the one. That thinking, however, was detrimental to my work, and it showed in my words, and I felt it during the writing experience.
I got into writing to put my heart on the page, when had I become so afraid? Had rejection made me that fearful? That doubtful of my work? I guess it had, but it was no way to write.
It took me a couple of weeks to cultivate a new perspective and new approach going into TGC, but it was much needed. I needed to allow myself to get close to the characters, to immerse myself in their world, and allow myself to hurt and grow alongside them. I needed to take my time with it. There's no rush, no ticking clock. Just me, my characters, and their story. Go at their pace, not some arbitrary deadline I've placed upon myself.
After coming to that conclusion, I felt much better, and now I know what I need to do for myself and for this manuscript.
After five years, I had learned something after all. Now, to continue trusting my gut and intuition.