I’m in the peculiar position, as a writer (aren’t they all?), of having the confidence that comes with knowing I can finish a novel draft (an edge over most beginning writers), but still basically being at a first novel skill level in knowing the how of building a novel from its essence outward.
The crappy finished draft was 13 years ago, after all. Then, I had no community for writerly support, no concept of how to take a bad first draft and turn it into a finished product, and a huge perfectionistic streak that had a hard time handling perceived failure. I spent 8 years after that not writing at all (well, I was also being drained creatively having all my energy tied up in crappy interpersonal relationships, too).
I fixed my head and started picking better lovers, started writing again, helped form a writing group, did scads of online research about writing, read awesome writer blogs (like Marissa Lingen, Elizabeth Bear, and many many others), wrote some more, started learning to revise, learned I was the sickest sort of writer (I like to revise!), and the ideas flowed like water.
Every part of this new novel process has been full of learning experiences. It’s been long enough, and my situation is different enough now, that so much of it is like doing it for the first time: learning all the technical fun parts, playing with structure and theme and mood and voice and syntax and sounds and layers and balancing all that with the need to tell an entertaining story, not take the easy ways out, do right by the story, fit all the good bits in…
And yet, that little voice of assured success, knowing that however badly, I’ve done this once and so of course can do it again, helps me less than you might think. Because the shrewd among you (or those who’ve met me) likely noticed I didn’t get rid of that inner perfectionist, though I might have learned a bit about modifying the extremes of her harshness over the last decade.
I know I can do this. I even know it will be good. But will it be good enough? That fear lingers, in the spaces between the words.
Happily, these days, the fear is smaller, though still there if I go looking. I do have a really awesome family, and writing group, and network of resources, and I think that will fill any gaps in my own amazingness until I can learn enough to jump ever higher hurdles. I’m stepping along this path carefully, this time, laying solid and healthy writer habit foundations wherever I can, building slowly when I feel like rushing, learning to let go my ego and let the story be written. I’m practicing along the way with short stories (I’ve even sold one!) , many of which are turning out to be rather nicely written.
It will be good. Good enough? Well, if not…there’s always the next novel.