Monday, June 8, 2015


Written Thursday, 4 June 2015

It’s one of those bright, sunshiny days, a day where possibility abounds. Writing, I’m seated in the Plaza Premium Lounge in Terminal 1 at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The view is of the tarmac, and I’m watching the planes take off and land, and taxi to and from their gates. I’m in-between flights, heading to Halifax in about an hour.

Lately, my travel companion has been my novel. Actually, we’ve been together daily (or almost daily when my day job hasn’t “interfered”) for the past six or seven weeks as I undertook the revision process. This time I did things a little differently. Before undertaking this last rewrite, I read (devoured) James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication. With the knowledge and tools from Bell’s book, I set out to revise the manuscript. I saw the writing in a new way, and I was horrified. How many times, in the first ten pages, had I broken the rules around point of view? Too many. I was head hopping all over the place. Was my lead someone readers could get behind, root for? I thought so, even though it seemed like my lead may not be the typical “hero” but perhaps more the anti-hero. Was there too much exposition and not enough action? In the opening chapter, definitely! And that needed fixing. I could see the words and phrases I tended to overuse. “Oh, God,” I thought as my heart sank, daunted by the task ahead.

Once the panic had ebbed, I drew in a deep breath and got to work.

Throughout this process, I learned a lot about myself and my writing. About myself, I learned (or maybe it was confirmation) that I’m not afraid of hard work. I know all too well that a writing career develops one step at a time, one day at a time. Not overnight. I showed up to do the necessary work, to not let panic and doubt derail me. Sometimes the writing was sloppy, even uphill. Other times the writing held up well, moved along steadily. Regardless of how the writing felt, I kept on keeping on.

About my writing, I learned that I wasn’t afraid to be ruthless. Looking at the story as a whole, there were scenes that didn’t work, or didn’t work well. I wasn’t afraid to cut them or do a from-the-top rewrite. Would readers bond with my lead and want to follow him through a whole novel? Yes. At the end, will readers feel the way I want them to? Yes. Is there conflict or tension in the dialogue, even between allies? Yes. Do I feel good about the writing, the characters, the overall story? Yes.

I overcame the panic and doubt at the beginning of this process to produce a manuscript that I’m proud of and that I’m excited about. I’m going to let the manuscript rest for a little bit before undertaking the “polish.” Like watching the planes touchdown on the tarmac at the airport, I feel like I’ve landed. I’ve almost reached my destination and that leaves me a little scared. I’m already asking myself, “What’s next?” That has me feeling disoriented because I’ve been bunkered down so long with this project that I feel like I’ve withdrawn. I have to now ease back into life, reconnect with friends and family, do some of the other things I love to do. Do I have the courage to, one more time, begin again?

Yes, with time, I will … begin again. But, just for today, I will let myself rest. I’ve earned that. Then, one step at a time, one page at a time, I will go where this creative journey leads me.

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