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A Very Many Voices

Do you ever wonder what the correct answer is when it comes to revising a piece of fiction? In my case, a novel, my second, sitting in its little box in the dark, cluttered hole I call an apartment, waiting for me to decide its fate.

I’m hearing voices in my head, and they’re all saying different things.

Voice 1 (literary agent): Book is missing its middle. Revise and call me back. [Unfortunately this was said six months ago. Will she still remember my book, my name?]

Voice 2 (literary agent): Book is not marketable with characters such as they are. People don’t want to read about broken people who do not turn happy and good at the end. Sorry. Even if you revise, please please don’t make me read it again.

Voice 3 (book editor): Answer tk. [Or is no answer the answer that means “I hope to never hear from you again for as long as I live”?]

Voice 4 (film producer): It’s almost finished, but a revision is needed.

Voice 5 (artist acquaintance): DO NOT REVISE JUST BECAUSE OTHER PEOPLE SAY YOU HAVE TO. Stick to your vision, self-publish if it comes to that, but never, ever compromise just to please someone else.

Voice 6 (screenwriter): I thought it was perfect the way it was. Why did you revise it the first time anyway?

Voice 7 (successful writer): So I have this agent and this two-book deal and I have to write another book and can you believe it and you know how it is, oh, you don’t? You don’t have an agent yet? Never mind. So anyway, it’s hot out today, huh?

Voice 8 (writer friend): Just leave it alone and start something new. Who ever ends up publishing their first (or second) novel anyway?

Voice 9 (new writer): How’s your novel coming?????!!!!!! Oh, I am so excited!!!! Oh, when is it getting published???????!!!!! Oh, why don’t you want to talk about this? Oh. I didn’t know. Sorry. I, uh, I’m gonna go. See you later.

Voice 10 (love of my life): I will not let you give up on this. Send it out to small presses, or revise if you want to. It’s not living in that box for the rest of our lives.

Voice 11 (me): Let’s take a week off from work to revise it and send it to that agent who was so enthusiastic otherwise.

Voice 12 (me again): Forget it. It’s never going to be good enough anyway. Just skip the revision and make it into a movie script.

Voice 13 (uh, yeah, me): Did I say skip it? How can we give up so easily? Seriously, get your act together and revise the damn thing. So what if we’ve revised it TWO TIMES ALREADY. What’s one more?

Voice 14 (hi, it’s me): I don’t wanna. Can I just write something else now? I have so many more ideas. That book was just a one-off kinda thing, a flight of fancy, a diversion—it’s not really what I want to say as a writer. I have so much more in my head! Shouldn’t I be spending my time on that?

Voice 15 (me): If you give up on everything you start you will never make it as a writer and will be a complete and total failure and when you die the only books you’ll leave behind are ones you ghostwrote, so no one will even know it’s you, or ones in boxes in your closet that will get dumped with your old clothes and shoes like trash.

Voice 16 (yup, me): That’s it. We’re moving forward. The book is what it is, and we’re happy with it, and in fact we love it, and we want it to have every word that’s there, and we’re giving up on agents for good. We’re going to try the small presses now. Write a query letter, quick, before you change your mind.

Voice 17 (me, changing my mind): But what if…

Voice 18 (me, talking to myself): Don’t say it.

Voice 19 (me): But what if we do just this one more revision and that agent who wanted to see it again loves it and we have an agent, someone to support us professionally, wouldn’t that be a dream come true? Isn’t that worth the struggle?

Voice 20 (me): [No answer.]

Voice 21 (me): If you’re not going to make up your mind, we’ll never get anywhere.

Voice 22 (me): I know.

Voice 23 (me): So? What should we do?

Voice 24 (me): You tell me.

6 thoughts on “A Very Many Voices

  1. This post is absolutely brilliant. I was howling and cringing with recognition. No wonder writers are neurotic (yes, I am speaking for myself). And: I love the love of your life! Sounds a lot like mine.

    PS. Good luck and I promise to never ask how your novel is going.

  2. My vote? Voice number 16. if you’re happy with your book, and have done what you want with it, then you’re where you should be. Keep sending it out, and get going on the next one. And if you aren’t asking for votes, then just know that if your fiction is like your blog, you’re fine. This is a time in your life when you don’t have the distractions you will later. Take it from someone with three children and a demanding job, you’re in a sweet place. Write what feels the most compelling to you now and enjoy yourself. (impliciit in that is “as much as you can”!!)

  3. Thanks. I must admit I still don’t know what to do. The voices are growing in number and now I’m talking to myself! Fact is, I keep changing my mind.

  4. You are in the same situation I was in last year! I got the “revise this, revise that” comments from literary agents but the goalposts kept changing, they were never happy with what I wrote even though I followed their requirements to the letter. I did 8 redrafts before saying: “No. This book is mine. I am saying what I want to say through this writing.” And I have no agent!! I also got 35 rejections in 2005 but I’m not giving up, just keeping on sending out, sending out. I had a life-changing experience at the end of 2005, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but suddenly I knew exactly what I needed to do and was happy with my decisions. It’s also tons more fun writing a new story than doing the continuous redrafts, you get to a stage with redrafting where you feel like you’re going insane.

    You’re going to make it, I can tell. All the best.

  5. Pingback: Why Writers are Insane « ReadingWritingLiving

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