Friday, August 5, 2011

Hey, was that a caution flag I just raced past?

I will admit it. I'm a goal oriented person. Although that translates into an ability to be super-productive and really make things happen, it can also be a big fat liability.

Today's problem with being too goal oriented: Failure to notice the caution signs.

I've been working on my new story for the last few weeks, and it's really been rocking. I really needed to finish the first draft before August 19, when my daughter gets out of camp, because once she is sprung, it's hard for me to get work done. So, I was watching my word count and working until the wee hours of the night, pressing onward. But as I was going along and making great progress, I was feeling increasing uncomfortable with the book. It just wasn't feeling good when I sat down at the computer, even though I loved it.

I decided that my problem was that I was comparing it to my last book, a magic book that wrote itself in 17 days. I told myself that it was okay that this book was different than the 17 day one, and that it actually had to be different, since it's a new book. Did that make me feel better about my new book? Nope, I still wasn't feeling it.

But I kept on writing, because I those daily page quotas needed to be met. As I continued to speed along, I decided that the problem must be that I was feeling too much pressure to write something amazing, since my prior book (the 17 day book) had been so amazing. I told myself not to be so judgmental, and to just write from the heart, and all would be well. I kept on writing, and was up to 30k at this point. Did that make me feel better about my new book? Nope, I still wasn't feeling it.

Then, this weekend, life interfered and I had to take five days off from the book. When I sat down to work on it this morning, I decided to read it from the start to get a sense of the story again and to show myself that it really was good so I would stop stressing about it. First chapter: awesome. Second chapter: awesome. Third chapter: hmm… confusing. By the time I reached the eighth chapter, I realized that my heroine's reaction to her plight was completely wrong. Wrong for her and wrong for the situation. Wrong from page one.

And that's when I realized that all my discomfort with the story had nothing to do with all these external bags. The truth was that the story wasn't working, and my gut knew it, but I was too focused on my daily word count to stop and assess. I made excuses for my discomfort instead of actually stopping and dealing with it. So now, I have 30k words that I basically have to throw away because my heroine was wrong from page one. If I'd stopped in chapter three when I first started feeling discomfort with the story, I could have fixed it and saved myself a lot of time and deleted pages. But I was so focused on getting that word count done that I kept telling myself that I would fix the problems in my edits—but of course, this wasn't that kind of problem.

I am supremely grateful that I realized the problem now, and not after I finished the book, but I also feel like I learned a lesson. Sometimes, no matter what your goal is or how important it is, the very best thing you can do is to blow it off completely and listen to your gut.

Next time, I'm listening to my gut. Tomorrow, I'm starting on page one again. And I promise you, I am never doing this to myself again…I hope. :-)


Angie Fox said...

Ouch! Sending loads of virtual chocolate your way, Stephanie!

Stephanie Rowe said...

On the plus side, now that I've been reworking her motivation, I have come up with SO MUCH awesome stuff to add and it's going to be a thousand times better. Maybe, if I had stopped on chapter two to rework it, I wouldn't have realized that there is a need for all this other stuff too. So, it's all good. Won't be done by 8/19, but that was just my own deadline, so not a huge deal.

But thanks, Angie!!! It would still be much better if I'd gotten the 30k right from the start!

Tawanda said...

I hopes your Muse is ready to work because this book will be one of your best.

Stephanie Rowe said...

Thank you, Tawanda! That is so nice of you to say!