Thursday, May 30, 2013

Into the Void

Writing is this odd push and pull of the solitary and the communal. We write alone (usually) but for others to read. We create, while the imaginations of readers breathe life into our creations. The words we put on paper are only the start of the story. In is in the minds of others where our worlds grow and our characters bloom.

I'm at a strange place in my journey as a writer. Many of my writing partners have launched careers in the last year - signing with agents, making book deals, self-publishing. I'm thrilled for them. I cheer their successes and fill up my TBR list on Goodreads with their upcoming releases. But for me, it also means I'm kind of, sort of, left behind. NOT THAT THIS IS BAD. I'm not complaining. It's just that with success comes obligations and responsibilities I don't have. For the moment, we're in different places. My list of writers who will read for me at the drop of a hat has shrunk. I've found some new ones, but there's a perception that because I have this group of writer friends, I have readers, critique partners, editors in abundance.

A year ago, that was true. A year ago, I was still toiling away on my beloved empath story. I believed in that story enough to keep trying, even when I should have let go. For whatever reasons, I had more readers than I knew what to do with for that story. The feedback was great. I'd write a new scene and have five people asking to see it by nightfall. I got spoiled.

Now, as I'm tip-toeing into querying for my YA contemporary romance, I feel woefully unprepared. Three people have read this story other than me. I've had in-line edits for the first 50 pages only. And it terrifies me. What if it sucks? What if I'm sending it out too early? What if those three readers, whom I admire and respect and appreciate, were sparing my feelings and it needs a complete overhaul?

With each rejection (there's been a couple already), I doubt more. I analyze and reanalyze every word of every email. Agents always state personal preference, but what if I need to take every piece of criticism and rewrite the whole thing?

That's what happened with my last manuscript and I'm not willing to let it happen again. I LOVE this story. I'm happy with it's shape, it's arc, it's resolution. Is it perfect? No, but I don't think it needs major rewrites (unless I rewrite it in first person, but that's a whole different post).

The problem is that I feel like I'm shouting into a void. With limited feedback, I have no external validation. The self-doubt is creeping in, not because there's cause for it, but because there's so little to combat it. If a tree falls in a forest but no one hears, does it make a sound? Does my fluffy little love story matter if no one ever reads it?

This is one of the angstiest posts I've ever written. Again, I don't mean to complain. But perhaps one of you, my readers, feel like you're yelling into the void. You're not alone. I'm standing there next to you. Maybe we're all there next to you. Maybe JK Rowling still feels like she's throwing word out into the world with nothing coming back. Maybe this is one of pesky artistic temperament things. We crave validation, we fear criticism, we are our own worst enemies.

Whatever the reason, it's not enough to keep me from yelling, even if an echo never comes back. I'll keep writing because I have stories to tell. Some may be terrible. Some may be wonderful. Some may rot on my hard drive (here's looking at you, high fantasy). But I will keep writing. And you should too.