Writing Posts

Two Steps Back, A Million Steps Forward

Oh boy, do I have work ahead of me.

Remember reading this post, where I described my revelation of recognizing when you send a manuscript out too early to be read, because it’s still at the “this-book-is-shit” stage? Yeah, so I read through all of that beta feedback referenced in that post this afternoon and that status still stands.

As it sits right now, as a draft, THE RESISTANCE is, indeed, shit.

When I wrote that post, I felt really disheartened about that fact (and also embarrassed that I sent out such an shoddy example of my work). Knowing that mindset, I purposefully didn’t read through any of the feedback in-depth, because I knew it would either a) tear me apart or b) I’d feel really defensive and want to argue every criticism they made, becoming irrational and doing my betas a disservice.

Reading it today, in a much better mindset, having already accepted that my story is in its earliest stage and what my betas are claiming is most likely the truth, I could actually see the merit of my betas insight without taking it as a personal attack. I also realized another important thing.

So.much.revision.ahead.

I have a two page document filled with notes of things that I need to focus on. Namely plot, character and exposition. My main character was so passive, it drove my readers crazy and made them not care about him or his struggles in the slightest. They had no idea about his motivations or his drives and got tired of him being dragged around and forced to do things by other characters, instead of initiating anything himself. And there was no character arc, no growth, so by the ending, readers were left unsatisfied–not to mention that this was a straight-up tragedy, with no happy ending in sight.

Speaking of the ending, the dissatisfaction with the ending was also tied into my second main flaw: the plot. While I had the basic idea and conflict, the execution and finer details were desperately lacking. And the questions that my beta readers brought up, I couldn’t answer (hint: that’s a warning flag if I’ve ever seen one). Not to mention the specifics of the science and the magic system within it were…not present. A lot of plot holes. A lot.

Finally, there was the writing itself, which reflected my uncertainty of the plot and my unfamiliarity with the main character because it was overrun with exposition, constantly barraging my readers with info dumps and explanations instead of showing them what I wanted them to know and putting them in-scene. Not to mention I had two betas out of four who thought switching from third person to first person might be the better option.

I have so much to fix, so much to understand and so much to heighten that I got overwhelmed and wrote this blog post instead of getting started. However, I think writing this helped me get a better sense of direction.

First, I need to understand the plot. I need to understand the world, the mechanics, the conflict, the rationale, the stakes. I need to understand every angle and figure out what I’m trying to say with this book. Because that ending that everyone hated? I want that to stay. I really want to write a book where the ending that I have fits. But in order to do that, I need to make it still feel complete and rewarding while also heartbreaking.

But once I understand the plot, I can figure out the character that’s stuck within it. Figure out their past, their history, their quirks, their attitudes, their beliefs, their situation and then I’ll understand what they’ll do when I throw them into an apocalypse where 5% of the population is all that remains of the human race.

Once I understand the plot and the character and how they interact, I’ll map out the story. The beats. How we get from start to finish.

And then I’ll write it, which will be an interesting process, because I’ll mostly be starting out with a new draft–especially since I’m considering not only changing the POV, but also the gender of the protagonist–but I’ll also be salvaging scenes from the old one.

Plot. Character. Beats. Words.

A lot of revision ahead and lessons learned from this story, friends. Let’s hope I stay up to the task, hm?

Cheers.

4 thoughts on “Two Steps Back, A Million Steps Forward”

  1. I’m reminded of a time that a financially successful author talked about how she wrote and revised until she thought her story was perfect, and so did her beta readers, only to send it off to her editor and receive a copy back with a full pad of sticky notes stuck between the pages.

    At a certain point there’s a type of madness that’s almost a prerequisite for this kind of endeavor: the ego to believe, the humility to learn, and the patience to continue without the slightest idea how long it’s going to take.

    But that’s the important thing. You’re keeping at it, and that is a victory, and probably the most important one.

    I definitely struggle with defensiveness, but as you say, I step back, take a moment, and remember that no matter what people say, the only question I have to answer is “How do I use this?”

    Clearly this is a story you need to tell, and those are always the hardest, but also the strongest.

    Good luck. 🙂

    1. It really is subjective, isn’t it? Every time I query is when I’ve finally convinced myself that my book is “ready,” yet my definition and someone else’s is usually pretty different.

      I used to be overly defensive and I’m really glad I’ve matured passed that, because that wasn’t helpful for anyone involved.

      Thank you for your feedback and insight. Good luck to you, as well, in any writing adventures that you have!

  2. Lol, love the opening lines to this post. I think it’s awesome to hear someone say, “Hey I made some shit.” It’s refreshing to know that you’re not the only one. As with Artemis – I’m super excited to read this one!

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