I have written and rewritten the start of this entry a half-dozen times, and I still have no idea how to express my frustration eloquently. So, here it is expressed clearly:
- I rewrote ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part;
- I typed it;
- I transcribed it to digital format;
- I started editing;
- I stopped editing.
I suffered writer’s block when I rewrote ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part. The first few pages are soulless, uninteresting, and confusing. Even I’m unsure what’s going on, and I wrote it! I know what I intended when I rewrote it: Intrigue readers with a mysterious major character until a throwaway character identifies her to another throwaway character. This device works in television and film. Other authors may do it successfully, but I mangled it.
Well, at least I learned never to do that again.
The Indie Litmus Test
I recently read Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave by Don McNair. The clearest book I’ve read on practical manuscript editing in years, he also explains why manuscripts are rejected and points out an uncomfortable truth: We consumers reject manuscripts in the same way. We just do it in bookstores instead of at desks.
Was I, as a reader, hooked by my own story by the end of first paragraph? No.
Paragraph one of page one sinks the entire manuscript, and page two is no better. While the rewrite warms up in chapter two, no busy literary agent or editor would have time to read that far. If a literary agent or editor would mail it back to in less than a minute, then a potential reader would dismiss my paperback in less time and move to the next title on the shelf.
Novels are considered made or broken in their first paragraphs, yet it doesn’t stop there. Authors must maintain momentum to hold a reader’s attention. Those tantalizing hints require creative energy.
So, What Happened?
Without creative energy, I typed blind. I wrote the story, but I didn’t experience the story; I wasn’t along for the ride, like I was when I initially drafted ‘Til Undeath.
However loathsome, I concede that my publishing deadline will be pushed back. I would rather put out a good novel late than an unreadable one on time. I can take some comfort, for I have the original draft, and I can turn to it during this temporary writing crisis.
Welcome to the writer’s blockade: It’s all ink, sweat, toil, and tears from here.