Finding Your Middle

November 17, 2011

A few weeks ago I bookmarked this page from the ever useful BookEnds Literary Agency blog. In this post, Jessica talks about an intern who was guilty of over-editing, a common mistake among young editors. This post really resonated with me as a writer, because I think we do the same thing.

When I first decided that getting published wasn’t some pipe dream, I had no fear. Mainly, because I didn’t know what to fear. I didn’t know about word counts or the difference between category and single title. I didn’t know a query from a synopsis. I went in very blind. As I began to research through publisher, agent, and other writer’s websites, I began to see there was a lot I didn’t know. Still, I was of the mindset… what’s the worst that can happen?

My expectations were low, but as I learned more my expectations got higher. Getting published seemed more attainable. My first serious submission resulted in a revise and resubmit. I was so totally “in.”

Except I wasn’t, and a year’s worth of rejections and learning curves followed. Eventually that “what’s the worst that can happen?” turned into “I don’t know if I can stand another rejection.” The more I learned, the more I realized I had left to learn, and it put a serious damper on my writing. Not just because I was afraid, but because I was overthinking, overediting, overcriticizing.

Every choice I made in a WIP I wondered if an agent or editor would find it appealing. Every character, setting, premise I wondered if it would sell in the current market. I second guessed my instincts, my characters, their motivation, their goals, their happily ever afters. I was too critical with what I had written. These are not bad things in and of themselves. If we look at writing as a business, we have to think about audience, saleability. If we want a good story, a good romance, we have to look at goal and motivation. But it can go too far. If it’s impeding your ability to write, if it makes you question every word, every idea, every scene, then I am of the belief that you’ve fallen out of that middle good place where you can judge things objectively.

I was in this place late this summer, despite signing a contract with The Wild Rose Press at the end of September. I didn’t write any new words in September or October. I was overanalyzing every step of every WIP, and even signing a contract, my first, didn’t alleviate that overactive editor in my brain.

I’m not sure I’ve totally gotten back to my middle ground, but I’ve begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Writing every day helps (even when you don’t want to), having a CP who will talk you off the ledge really helps, but in the end I’ve learned that I just have to tell that over-editor to shut up.

Does your over-editor ever take over? Do you have any methods for coping?


7 Responses to “Finding Your Middle”

  1. This totally resonated with me! (I saw the same post by Jessica.) One of the best ways I’ve found to shut her up is to write in sprints. If I’m writing fast (#1k1hr), then she doesn’t have too much time to put nasty thoughts in my head while I’m writing. Oh, she hits me hard when I’m done typing, but by then I’ve at least written. Otherwise, I would stop writing completely, and she would win. The nerve of that bitch for even trying to get in my way! 🙂


    • Nicole Says:

      I doubt there’s a writer out there who hasn’t felt this way. 1k1hr is definitely helpful. Like a mini NaNo, no time to 2nd guess… Till it’s over.

  2. taristhread Says:

    What a great post! For me, I have to get out of my own head (that critical voice) and into my character’s head and just let the story come out…of course then I still go back and freak out, but if I can just get it all down on paper……

    • Nicole Says:

      That’s a great point about getting into your character’s head. I think that’s something I’ve been lacking lately. Thinking too much from my writer’s perspective and not enough from my characters. I’m really going to try to think about that!

  3. Yeah, I used to cripple myself, worrying over every sentence, for some reason believing it had to be perfect the first time. I think it was the computer that changed me. Words were no longer down there physically, in ink, on paper, practically unchangeable, at least not without a lot of scrubbing, scribbling and White-out. Now it just takes a quick cut-n-paste, or a swipe and delete to get them to say what I really meant, not how it came out the first time. It’s freed me to let the words flow out onto the screen — they’re not forever until you hit “send”!

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