When the doubts come marching in . . .

For the past few weeks – in between many other things – I’ve been going over the book I wrote last spring. It’s gone through 21 revisions already.

I have two chapters left. The climax and denouement. That’s it. Two more to finish reading and revising. So I sat down last night to get them done. Just another 30 pages or so, and I can get started on putting the revisions to work.

So I picked up the manuscript and started reading . . . and ten minutes later, threw it down in disgust and got up to do laundry instead. Epiphany Time had arrived.

My books sucks.

Is there a time in every writer’s life when they stare at the mess they’ve created, rather like Dr. Frankenstein, and say “Ye gods, what have I done? What have I done?” (Imagine enraged, desperate scream to the heavens echoing from stone walls here.) A time when the doubts come marching in?

I hope so, because I am so there.

To be fair, I do this all the time, with almost every manuscript. Well. No. To be fair, I actually don’t. It’s just this urban fantasy series. What about it is so infuriating? What about it makes me incapable of writing it to any façade of satisfaction? I have no idea. What I know is that I get to a place where I’m happy with it, I send it to my betas, they review it and send it back to me, and then . . . when I start on the revisions, I realize that It Sucks.

I have plenty of other novels sitting on my hard drive that don’t do this to me. They’re good. They were early novels, but there are things about them I love. The writing, the characters. The fact that they move forward. That they have plots. That my characters develop over time.

Yeah. I’m starting to see the problem with the current novel.

The fact is, the doubts march in only when they’re needed. Sort of like gargoyles. Gargoyles only come to life when they’re needed to combat evil. Doubts are there for a reason: to let us know that all is NOT right with the world we’ve created. I take heart from that. Gargoyles might look damned scary as they swoop down on you (though I admit, I’ve never really seen this, so I’m guessing here), but in the end, they’re there to save the day. Doubts must be the same way, right?

I’ve realized quite a few things about this novel in the last couple of weeks.

  • Some chapters need to be rearranged.
  • Some need to come out altogether.
  • I need a plot that actually goes somewhere, but to have that, I have to have characters who are actually willing to do something. Right now, I don’t. So the plot doesn’t progress.
  • Although I adore most of my secondary characters, I’m having trouble with my MC, Erin, and the primary “mover” in the book, a girl named Rebecca. Rebecca doesn’t do much, either, and the truth is, I don’t even really like her.
  • My secondary plot lines are great, but my main one is virtually nonexistent.
  • Rebecca’s biggest problem is a guy named Seth, who only shows up in the last scene.

Maybe most damning of all, I am not familiar with my setting. I’ve never been to England. I want to. I’m dying to. But without having been there, how can I write about it with any conviction? I can’t describe the streets and buildings, or the route Erin takes to university every day, or the shops. I can’t put her in a convincing setting.

But what I think I hate most about it is that it seems so superficial. Like my characters are skating on top of ice, when they really need to be swimming in the depths below. There are moments when I feel them beginning to fall through the ice and get to those dark depths, but those moments are too few and too far between.

Is it fixable? Maybe. Will it need extensive rewrites? Absolutely. Have I got other things to be doing? Yup. I’m not sure I’m ready to give up yet. But the doubts have definitely – and thankfully – marched in. Now, I need to listen to them.


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