Killing my Ego

The one where Charlie realizes they have no idea wtf they’re doing.

Photo by Vijay Putra on Pexels.com

Something I really wish I could do is skip forward to the point where I know what I’m doing at this job. Then I would have the answer for at least a few of these questions as it pertains to my style and process:

Is this bit of preparation something that will actually help make my book better? Will I have enough skill to make sure that this minor character’s story arc and psychological growth will appear to those who read this story without it being a moralistic spoonfeeding session? Is this a story I should even bother finishing or just count as a loss and move on to more exciting projects? 

Then of course, the big question: is this story ever going to be any good? 

I’ll never have the answers to these questions until it’s done. That’s the painful part of writing, I guess. It’s a lot of work to get your story planned, your characters breathing, your plot rolling along, and then you have to keep hammering away until it resembles something remotely okay. The whole time you just trust that eventually someone might want to read the nonsense you’ve been butchering.

This isn’t a new revelation: writers have been complaining about this part for ages. I’m only now getting to this point because I rarely get past a first draft, or I’ll write short stories which are easier to not think as hard about. 

First drafts are all the good feelings: “oh boy, this is amazing! There’s no way this could be flawed!” and then you can just put it away, whistling innocently. The subsequent drafts are you on your knees scrubbing, praying the bloodstains come out of the carpet. 

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that no matter how cocky you are right now (like I was before this), you will come to this point, too. The experts say don’t quit here, so I’m not going to, but dear god is it tempting. It hurts to finally open your eyes to the faults in your story. To see the supporting characters as flat or to realize a bit of world building you thought was compelling and unique doesn’t actually make any sense. 

But I’m trying to remember that every first draft has massive problems, and I can see mine because I have been paying attention. I have studied stories from the greats, I have picked apart trash, and I can see where my work falls short precisely because I’m not a lost cause. What I can see, I can fix. What I can’t see, I hope my beta readers will point out to me, and then I can fix those problems, too. Which will be another painful process in itself, but let’s take this one gut-punch at a time, yeah?

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