So, I’ve recently been battling self-doubt and confusion concerning my novel. Every writer faces it from time to time and every writer must come to terms with it or give up their craft. I was not quite at that point, but I certainly was wavering on continuing my first novel: It’s too big, it’s very likely to disappear in a cloud of other (better) steampunk novels, it’s taken too long. Whatever criticisms or doubt I could level at my manuscript, my imagination or myself, I did. With gusto.
I perpetrated the first and greatest sin of a writer and didn’t ever realize it: I let criticism destroy my courage and my perseverance. I took helpful suggestions, valid observations about how I was expressing my novel and its message and turned that into condemnation. That’s a bad thing to do, but I suppose learning that lesson now is better than submitting the novel and having someone ravage it and not be prepared to handle that level of criticism.
However, my lovely wife Jennifer, always my muse, defender and generally wiser half had a long heart-to-heart with me. She gave me her opinions, unvarnished as I would expect, but ultimately optimistic. Will my novel need serious editing? Yes, a fact I already knew. It is too long? Yes again, but I was already prepared for some savage editing after my first draft was done. She explained that if I already knew there facts, why so defeatist? Why be prepared to give up on a novel I’ve been writing for four years and try something new? Wouldn’t the sense of accomplishment outweigh any benefit of stepping aside? Wouldn’t finishing the first draft and making my first hard cuts and revisions and then passing it to my beta readers to review be both a better option, providing both an important sense of completion of my first manuscript (or at least the first serious draft) as well as a built-in period of distance? Why not work on my new idea(s) then? I’ll certainly have time.
Of course, she was right. She thankfully is always right.
So, now I approach November re-dedicated and reinvigorated. There’s nothing bad about stepping back from something, but only if the reason is worthwhile and the results are worth it. I think getting this novel past its current stage and then letting others handle the brutal work of critiquing it is what my novel needs, as well as what I need.