And no, this isn’t a political post!
You have an idea for a book (this is about a picture book but the experience is universal). You start thinking about it, a small start. A few things click. You come to believe that maybe … maybe there’s something there.
An opening scene or a few lines of dialogue line emerge. It’s working!
You start to think – maybe this is the best idea I’ve ever had!
You scribble, you write. You continue to push it, the idea evolves. It’s got legs, It’s almost walking and …
Trouble. It’s not working. That opening doesn’t make sense. The main character – what IS the main character trying to accomplish anyway and didn’t I just switch the meaning of the entire book with the last revision?
It’s a mess.
This is the difficult part and for many years it stopped me in my tracks when it came to FINISHING a book. What seemed such a promising start turns into a mess of convoluted ideas, confusing prose and crisscrossed inspirations.
The temptation is strong to end it right there and move on. Get a new inspiration. Dump this lemon.
And I have done that. But looking back at my work I realize that completing the idea, forcing yourself to solve it, getting a manuscript you can share with someone (a loved one, an agent, an editor perhaps) is vitally important. Because rarely has a manuscript fallen from my mind in perfect form. The starts-and-stops and anxiety and fear is PART of a process that is unwieldy and convoluted. But a writers job it to resolve those issues and make it work.
It took me a bit to realize but solving the problems in a story is actually what you get paid for as an author. It’s not supposed to be easy.
The time and effort you put into solving the problems in a manuscript is the work a writer does. You have to work until you have a readable manuscript. Your story has to have a clear narrative, the different ideas and forces present in the books development need to somehow work in concert. Then you can share it and gain feedback (even if not always highly positive) and THEN you start in on the next idea. That’s how you get better.