Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Bitter-Sweet Affair

For the most part, I have a good relationship with my work in progress. My manuscript and I co-exist happily enough, both needing the other in order to get closer to a finished novel. But like any relationship, we have our ups and downs. But doesn't every writer hate their manuscript at some stage? Surely even the most successful author must doubt their next piece of work occasionally. Forget the old cliche of a roller coaster. My emotions are more like scaling and free-falling the Pennines!

One minute I love my work in progress. I think to myself, 'This is brilliant! It's so much better than that last reading book I bought but was too boring to finish.' I'm thrilled with the plot and my fingers are tapping on the keyboard like a demented woodpecker. Fast forward an hour, and I'm doubting my worthiness as a writer and wondering if I'll ever be published. Despite the free-fall, I know I love writing and have a great affinity with my characters. They're like real friends to me. I know what they're thinking, what they worry about and what they dream about. In fact, I miss the characters in Lies and Linguine and wonder how their lives have panned out since I left them. But no matter how much I love to write, some days it's difficult to stay motivated.

Manuscripts have to be almost perfect these days. Agents and publishers have such hectic and cost-sensitive work days, that they're looking for manuscripts which have been polished and sparkle, requiring very little additional tweaking. Nowadays a writer can't be satisfied with sending out three chapters and a synopsis having only edited them a couple of times. A book must be professionally prepared before submission. I suppose that's where some of the doubt creeps in. No matter how many times I return to a chapter, I can always swap a word, or tweak a sentence. It's knowing when you've done your best and it's time to step away.

Just like the lottery, you have to be in it to win it! If you don't finish your novel and edit it to within an inch of its life, you won't stand a chance at finding a publisher. But the crazy thing is, even if I won the lottery, all I really want to do is write. So surely I should be satisfied with the knowledge that I'm already doing what I love?

I think it's time to kiss and make up. My new characters in Sugar and Spite are waiting for me. We need to work together to get my second book finished. If you'll excuse me....I have a date with my keyboard!


  1. That's definitely it, the notion that you could tweak one paragraph for the rest of your life isn't something easily shaken off!

    The fear of not having done the absolute best you could have is something that prevents many writers from submitting at all. I'm hopping over that fence in the near future, but it has been a long-standing concern.

  2. Thank God I’m not the only one who does this! I’m exactly the same when it comes to my works in progress…”This is brilliant!” to “I’m a failure” in less than a minute, then back again! I think its all part of the process.

    Steven Chapman (writer)

  3. There's a fabulous almost s&m thing that happens with editing too. Cutting up my beloved words is almost getting to be my favourite writing bit
    (uh oh)
    Good luck Ange - you're well on your way Ms

  4. Hello CharmedLassie, thank you for leaving a comment. Good luck with your work and fingers crossed for your submission.

    Hi Steven, yes I suppose it is part of the process - and hopefully improves our work! Good luck with your writing and thank you for dropping by.

    Hello lovely Megan! Thank you for your encouragement. Maybe one day!! Good luck with your reading at the library and hope to catch up at the next social. xx

  5. I think you've summed up this enjoyable and frustrating writing lark beautifully, Ange!

  6. I'm far from convinced by the concept of perfection or the pursuit of it. It smacks of a kind of desperation to compete with the gods themselves, who in antiquity were not seen as perfect; indeed, Aphrodite was portrayed as having a very slight squint, and perfection in mortals was seen as a slight to the gods.
    It becomes a never ending drive to improve; it's what creates eating disorders and much unhappiness.
    I need to settle with being flawed as a human being and stop driving myself harder and harder to achieve the impossible and therefore stepping away from a story and saying, let it be, is a good way of taking one small step to that impossible goal.
    ps the wv was mutmendo, the process of healing the dog!

  7. ha, second wv was recat. Funny.

  8. Hi Ange

    I agree so much with you about getting it right - yes wriitng is what we love and is our passion but there's no doubt that at times it calls for a great deal of hard work. But all that hard work will pay off I'm sure - so much of success is about focus and determination !

    It was lovely meeting up at the London Book Fair. Thanks for posting it and for mentioning my blog. I'm still catching up on the blogging front at the momement and like you I need to make a date with my writing.

  9. I recognise that roller-coaster of confidence and doubt only too well. I'm editing at the moment, and every time I go back to the ms I see new ways it could be improved. Difficult knowing where to stop at times!