Saturday, June 23, 2012

Challenge & Satisfaction


Right now I'm really struggling through a revision. I love the story, and I know what I want the end product to be. But getting from here to there? Oy.

The other day I thought to myself, Self? Why do you bother? If you close this laptop and stop knocking your head against the wall, it will not cause a ripple in the real world. 


But then I remembered why I bother. I remembered the readers I'm trying to reach, and how they deserve a worthy story. But on a personal level, I remembered the joy of the challenge, and the blissful satisfaction I feel when I get it right.

The Challenge


I liken my current manuscript to a cotton shirt that's been sitting in the bottom of the laundry basket. A shirt with nooks and tucks and crevices, with wrinkles big and small. I have a warm iron, and I press, press, press that shirt. Some of the wrinkles soften, but don't disappear. But if I adjust that iron, amp up the heat, that will help. If I add water for steam and press harder, that will help. More than anything else, I need to take my time and work out the wrinkles.

The Satisfaction


I also need to remember that my last book used to be a wrinkled mess as well. And I need to remember how much time it took to smooth out the rough spots and add interest. And I need to remember how awesome it felt when I read the final passages and thought, Wow, I did it.


We can all remember this: our story worlds, our characters, our plots were created by us. They wouldn't have existed otherwise, and the exact books won't exist again. Our story wrinkles are temporary, and if we're willing to take the time to smooth them out, we'll be glad in the end.

Writing good fiction is quite a challenge, but we can focus on those times when we're inspired and the words flow. Or even when we aren't inspired and we write anyway. And we can focus on the times when we tweak and tweak and tweak until the sentence works so well you get that squishy feeling in your stomach, or your eyes well with tears. 

Yep, that's what I'm focusing on now as I struggle through this revision. How about you? Have you ever wondered what's the point? Do you then remember the challenge and satisfaction?


photo credit

35 comments:

  1. I wonder sometimes what the point is as well. I'm not sure I would use a wrinkled shirt LOL,

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    1. And I hate to iron! Weird analog, I know :/

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  2. I ALWAYS go through this during revision. It makes it even harder if I already have a new idea. I go through a phase of, "this isn't even worth fixing, I should stop wasting time and move on to this other, better story." Now that I know those thoughts will nag me, I simply work through it, and try to remember my initial excitement about the characters and plot and think of the end product that I want to create. But it's definitely a struggle on certain days :)

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    1. Jess, my next idea is percolating, too, and I wonder if this current one is a waste of time.That's doubt talking, I know, so I will forge ahead and make it better!

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  3. I certainly have wondered at times. Writing is an incredibly tough thing to do emotionally. Hang in there though because the payoff is SO worth it. You can do it!

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    1. Thanks for the pep talk, Heather! Goodness, I sure to need it :)

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  4. Just realizing you're becoming one of my favorite Saturday bloggers. I can count on you and a couple of others to keep me entertained while I respond to comments, etc. :)

    I think the revision process can really feel like a mountain at times. There's just so much to consider all at once! Anyway, I've adopted a divided an conquer approach to it that seems to be helping. I pick one thing out and work my way through. When that's' sound as a pound, I move to the next. Slowly but surely it irons itself out.

    But what do I know? I guess this one thing: struggle is usually proportional to success. The more we work, the better it'll be when we're done.

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    1. E.J., you are a total sweetheart. Thanks for the kind words. And I like your process of breaking it down to one thing at a time. So much less overwhelming that way.

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  5. Your wrinkled shirt metaphor is brilliant, Julie. I'm in the middle of an unscheduled revision and have had those negative thoughts hassle me, too. My most common one: "You're just fooling yourself that you'll ever write anything worthy of publication." Then I remember that publication is not what started me on this path, but the love of storytelling. Thanks for another great post, Julie.

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    1. Victoria, what a wonderful attitude! Good luck with your revision. We can conquer this!

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  6. Amen, sister. I'm staring at my lopsided storyboard right now. Not much fixing, mind you. Mostly just staring. But the answers are slowly coming. A post-it note one day, another one the next. We'll get there eventually!

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    1. Becca, progress is progress, right? We're both making headway, and that's a great thing.

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  7. Yes. All last week I unraveled this story and now I'm working to sew it back together without showing the seams. I've had some panic moments, but I've had to remind myself how beautiful the garment will look when I get it done right. ^_^

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    1. Oooh, Angelina, well said! Love your analogy. Good luck, master seamstress!

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  8. Wonderful article. I love what you said about satisfaction. That is at the heart of every story for me. But I can also identify with the wrinkles. Yet isn't it the stories with the most wrinkles that makes for the greatest satisfaction?

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    1. Well said, Suzanne. With the biggest wrinkles come the most satisfaction. If it's easy, there's no challenge. No challenge, no satisfaction.

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  9. Yes, I do remember that moment when I thought, "what's the point?" I stepped back and, like you, remembered why I was doing what I was doing.

    I also reminded myself that good things take time.

    My first novel, somewhere along revision 10, I was tired of it and set it aside. And thought. I thought about my characters, their actions and those many wrinkles. I began analyzing everything my characters did, and found myself saying, "She wouldn't do that because..." I wasn't writing, I was thinking. Actually, I had spent a month on the floor babysitting my 9 month old grandson out of state, and talked to him about it. He was a great listener. We walked daily as I told him the problems and asked questions. The answers came.

    I needed to step back. I began to investigate motive. The satisfaction came back because I shifted from frustrating to having fun again.

    What helps in the frustration struggle is the only reason there are wrinkles is because your intuition tells you something is not right. So you already know subconsciously how to solve it. Before you go to bed tonight, pick one thing and ask yourself, what the problem is and how to fix it. You'll wake up in the morning with the answer.

    Then short-term satisfaction will follow. Just one word at a time. Yes... it "is" worth it.

    Thank you for a great post! And the great reminder. Exactly what I needed to hear today.

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    1. So true, Karlene. Knowing what the problem is half the battle, right? And now I need to slow down and marinate on solutions. Thanks so much for the wise words.

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  10. Oh, I know this place well. It's the time to ask yourself if you'd write even if there wasn't an "end game." I know you'd say yes AND since I've read the MS you are working on, I can say that your story is worth every bead of sweat, and pang of doubt. Hang in there, Sistah.

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    1. Leslie, you are...what's the word...amazing. Thanks so much for all your help, and thanks so much for the encouragement.

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  11. LOVE the wrinkled shirt analogy! I've only written one novel so I don't have enough history to judge, but I do get a great deal of satisfaction out of conquering the challenge of writing & revising. It's that satisfaction & pride that drives me toward publication. And in order to get there, it has to be good enough. Trouble is, sometimes I don't know what's good enough. So I let it percolate for awhile. The real story always seems to come through if I'm patient enough. And that's one thing writing for publication has taught me: patience.

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    1. Thanks, Nancy. And your patience has definitely paid off! It does take time, and I just need to remember that and keep plugging along.

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  12. Love this Julie - the analogy works so very well! I do love seeing those wrinkles smooth out. And even if the wrinkles are permanent, there's always the next story!

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    1. So true, Jemi! And when it's all smoothed out....ahhh, what a satisfied feeling!

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  13. Yes I have, but interestingly that was during the rewrite phase.

    Anyway, if you need any help or just another pair of eyes to go over your work, please don't hesitate to drop me a line.

    :-)

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    1. Thanks a lot, Misha! I'm patiently working through it and I know I'll get there :)

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  14. Revision can be so tough at times. You can do it! Just remember those finished polished drafts!

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  15. I'm about to start another round of revisions, and I'm intimidated by the changes I need to make. I know that if I push through it - tackling it one step at a time - I'll feel huge satisfaction when I'm done. I like your analogy!

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  16. It's possible that I have the, "What's the point?" feeling every single day. But then, I always manage to remember the point and move on. Love the shirt analogy! :-)

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  17. Love this.

    I just went through some extensive revisions. I love when we get to the other side. It feels good. I feel like a writer.

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  18. So... buying a new shirt won't work? LOL! Great comparison. I KNOW you can do it. It's already an awesome story. :D

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  19. It's funny that you mention ironing as it is one of my least favorite activities! I struggle almost as much to get the wrinkles out of my stories as I do from shirts, but I hope I do better with the stories. Let's just say the shirts still look "loved" when I'm done with them. Me+Iron=dangerous.

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  20. Totally with you, Julie. I was on fire last week with my revision and then yesterday I just hit a wall. Ugh! So, this post is exactly what I needed to read. Thanks! :D I know you can pull this off--everything worthwhile takes a little sweat and blood, right?

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  21. Hugs on the revision. Working through my own at the moment, though its been put on hold due to an illness.

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