I am about a third of the way through a detailed, objective and harsh read through of my manuscript. With less than 4 weeks until the Hachette/QWC retreat starts, I really want to not only be very familiar with the draft that I submitted to them, but also have a clear idea of what I think needs to change for my next rewrite. It will be interesting to see whether they agree or if I am on a completely different planet. And believe me, there is a lot that I think needs to change.
As I reached for my rainbow of highlighters, my red and black pens, my notebook and my manuscript, I started to feel what can only be described as despair. The novel as it stands just isn’t working. My plot is confused; my timeline is all wrong with temporal impossibilities; and my characters still need so much work. My old friend self-doubt started to creep into my mind.
Virginia Woolf talked about ‘the angel in the house’ to describe her self doubt that crept onto her shoulder and into her pages, and this is certainly something I can relate to. She was talking more about being a female writer at a time when there were certain expectations of women and their place in the house, and in society, but the concept is a useful one. This is how she dealt with it:
“Thus, whenever I felt the shadow of her wing or the radiance of her halo upon my page, I took up the inkpot and flung it at her. She died hard. Her fictitious nature was of great assistance to her. It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality.”
I have no inkpot, so instead I metaphorically threw my red biro at her and told myself to get over it and just keep going with my read through, making notes and allowing my subconscious to fix the problems. And then, all of a sudden, I knew what I must do, and that angel disappeared. My excitement and enthusiasm returned. Sure, I have created a lot more work for myself as I have to move around some major scenes and write a few new ones. But I know that it will make my manuscript better, tighter, and one step closer to the finished novel that I know is hiding in there.
Writing – like parenting – creates a huge range of emotions. In one moment, it can all seem too much, and then in the next, you remember why you make the choice to write, and the satisfaction and joy it brings you. I remind myself that I don’t HAVE to write. I could just put the manuscript away and watch daytime television, or read, or sleep. But most days I can’t wait to have an hour to lose myself in writing, and I know that without it, something would be missing.