Thursday, February 25, 2010

It does get easier. Kinda.

I spoke with my agent this week. If you don't know, I tend to be a bit... what's the word? Ah, yes. Crazy - when it comes to this whole book business. When I responded to Michael, accepting his offer of representation, I wrote this:

I would like to accept your offer of representation. That is, unless this is some sort of large-scale practical joke by the NYC publishing community. I admit that I would have a sick respect for such a move (after I got out of the fetal position, of course....)

Yeah, that's how I roll. Total professionalism, dogg.

Anyway. That's the sort of anxiety and paranoia he's got to deal with. This same type of fear sometimes translates into my writing. I rarely - if ever - have suffered from anything close to writer's block.

I can put words down on paper, people. Like it's going out of style or something.

My problem has always been in the revision part. Because, really, I can look at a piece of my writing and change it every. single. time. That's not healthy, from a mental illness standpoint OR when you're trying to be a writer. Because things will never be done... or so they say.

So back to my revision. I'm on the phone with my agent, asking him if he really still likes me. Saying stuff like, "Michael. Say it. Say that I'm a good writer. Please."

(Yes, I'm kidding.)

Maybe all writers have a form of weird anxiety. Maybe it is just a part of the business, because we're putting our true selves out there for people to cut down. This creates an inner voice of judgment whispering that we'll never be good enough, that nobody will want to read this crap - etc.

As I re-read my revision, I started to freak out.

The first chapter seemed disjointed and terrible.

The second chapter was worse.

Half way through the third chapter, I was in dire need of anti-depressants. Or alcohol.

The voice of judgment had struck.

You need to realize something. My agent had sent me a very positive e-mail a week before this, saying how I'd done a great job and there wouldn't be much left to do on this final revision. And then on the phone, he said, "You've accomplished a lot on this revision. Sometimes it's hard to do that with the first one, so good job!"

So why was I freaking out?

I have no idea.

But even though I really, really wanted to tinker with those first two chapters, I finished editing the third. Then the fourth. An hour later, I had flown through almost 80 pages.

And guess what?

It all was so good.

The next morning, I re-read the first two chapters. It didn't seem too bad on the second read. I allowed myself to change some of the passive verbs, and that made me feel better. In the second chapter, the pages were filled with frantic notes like... "Re-write!" But when I read them again, it seemed to flow. It worked.

Last night I knocked out another 100 pages. And every one of them felt right. The minor additions Michael asked for seemed so obvious. They practically jumped out from the page saying, "Hey, here's a good spot for a parental interaction!"

This morning, I read from the beginning again.

And guess what?

I liked every word.

And that's how I'm starting to realize that this book is close. Of course, if it gets picked up by a publisher it will go through another round of edits. But those will only make the novel stronger. Kinda like Obi Wan. They - like the notes I've gotten from Michael - will help fill in little holes that I never would've seen.

They make the book better.

And while, yes, the title of this post may be a bit untruthful (because I'm not sure if it ever gets easier...) maybe it does get better. Maybe the hard work brings forward a book that you can read through in one sitting and doesn't engage your gag reflex.


  1. Bryan - this is a fabulous post. You have no idea how much I relate to it. I have my full out with an agent right now since I'm doing the whole get a new agent dance now. And every single night as I lay in bed - I suffer chronic insomnia as I agonize over my MS. And I do what you do - Well the first chap is good but the next 3 suck and what the hell was I thinking having such a long dialogue? etc. etc. And I could revise forever. Which is why I haven't looked at it again since I sent it out. Being a writer is about being paranoid. And I bet your book is awesome!

  2. I actually have voice mails from Michael saved on my hard drive for just suck "I SUCK" occasions.

  3. Ellen - Thanks! I didn't look at my ms once when MB was reading it. It helped.

    Sara - I keep all my e-mails. But I wasn't going to own up to that one... It does help though.

  4. Anxiety is all part of this business!

    I bet it feels awesome to be about done with revisions. And still loving your book! Congrats!

  5. I don't feel that way about my agent thinking I suck, it's the editors out there that have it on their desk. I cringe every time my agent emails, hoping it won't be a rejection (I haven't suffered one yet for the novel, but still...I know it's coming. Urgh!)

    I'm glad you like it! That makes a world of difference. Hope you sell soon!

  6. I am so glad to hear that the revisions are going well--which is exactly what I took away from this post.

    Sounds like you're almost there. Way to go!


  8. If I were an agent, I'd sign you based on your blog alone.

  9. Bryan--I don't know what I was thinking in my earlier comment, because I didn't mention then how inspiring this post is for me. I love seeing a glimpse of a step down the road--it makes me want to get there. And, I love how honest you are with your thinking and feeling process. Thanks.

  10. Bryan my friend, once again you're making me jealous. For me, the more I edit, the more I hate it.

    Of course, my current agent-mandated revision went something like, "start all over on page one."

    So yeah, I gave you a blog award with a tag -- come check it out.

  11. As for li'l ole me, I turn to my mentors in writing workshop a lot. It helps to know that even bestselling authors deal with revision and rejection anxiety. I know they're on the road ahead ready to share the pitfalls and obstacles they've overcome.

  12. ha! I am enjoying my way back through your blog...what I took from this post is relief that I'm not the only one who has showed a little crazy in emails to the new agent (I have both offered to sell my children to her and complained about a contractual obligation involving my soul and some freak named Mephistoph-somthing.)

    I love it, seriously love it, when you can feel that revisions are actually working. And that next moment when you're convinced it's all for nothing because you've never written a damn thing worth reading--well, there's always a good stiff drink for that moment. :)