Sometimes the best way to deal with fear is not just to face it, but to take it apart. It’s the same with writing.
This sums up my approach to one of my novels. Although three agents are still looking at it, the fact that I haven’t heard from them in a while doesn’t bode well. Plus, I’ve had a feeling that there’s more than one problem with story, and this was confirmed recently by someone knows. His suggestion – scrap it and start over, sort of.
Well, you know the feeling – what do I do now, I can’t go back and redo it all. So, I consulted someone else who said, essentially, why don’t you go back and read it again. If you like it, (in other words, if you can deal with what it would take to fix this thing), then give it a shot.
The fear is in taking that look – what horror will I find? It’s like coming up to an accident and thinking, “I can’t look at this.” Well, the hardest part is that first step. I sat down with the manuscript and didn’t read it all, per se. I recall it well enough because I just finished it. But I thought about it as if it weren’t my manuscript. The irony for editors is that you can see problems in other people’s stuff, but not always your own – much like life.
I saw the problems pointed out by the person who said it wouldn’t fly, and he’s right. But I also began taking those problems apart and thinking about ways to change the story so that the theme remains intact and the characterizations remain true, but the book is fashioned so that it could actually be marketable. This may sound like selling out – but think of it more as resetting a gemstone, or any stone that has some value that’s not being featured in the best possible way. The setting of the stone, and in this case I don’t mean the setting of the novel, although I’m altering that slightly, too, but the way in which that stone is featured in the ring makes a huge difference, as anyone with a slightly smaller diamond knows.
The upshot – don’t just face your writing fears, dismantle them. Ask yourself not only what’s wrong with the novel, but how it can be fixed. Either you’ll realize that although it will take work to make changes that an agent or publisher would ask you to make anyway, or you’ll realize that it’s best to start fresh with another story. The work is largely the same either way, but now you’ve faced one of your worst writing fears and survived. It makes facing subsequent fears much easier. Happy writing!