Regarding the Excerpt I Didn’t Show You

There was a page 123 I did not post here. It was from my other novel-in-progress, a novel that lives in a box, or numerous boxes, under my couch, and in random other scribbled stages all over the apartment. It’s not so much “in progress” any longer—rather, it’s been left to rot because I haven’t brought it out to the trash yet.

Maybe I should.

Do you ever have those moments of pure clarity where you look back on something you’d written and see it as a stranger would and you just… cringe? Yeah, that’s what happened when I opened up to page 123, counted down to the sentence, and read from there. I’m just not feeling it any longer. Truth is, I should do better. Truth is, I want to do better.

But the question is—as the doubt bubbles up—can I do better?

I can’t figure out what is more useful for a writer to have: confidence, so the work gets finished, even if it’s not perfect; or insecurity, so the work is reimagined and repolished (and completely and totally rewritten??) until it shines.

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6 thoughts on “Regarding the Excerpt I Didn’t Show You

  1. That’s a great question, Nova! I worry sometimes, though, that when we polish too hard, we risk losing something.

    Some of my more creative work was quick and dirty – in my opinion.

    I’ll look forward to what others have to say, but I would write for readers and not for writers. Can you view your work as a (non-writer) reader would?

  2. I don’t see it as confidence and insecurity so much as forbearance and determination. Then again, you’ve finished all sorts of projects and I’ve never finished anything, so what can I say? Still, remembering the pep talks a writer in program used to give me and this other girl: She would practically hypnotize us with her monologues, just stressing the need to write like mad, whether writing several projects at once or writing that one book you really want to commit to, and to replace doubt and insecurity with focus and discipline. This sure sounds good, and it certainly feels good when you’re on a roll—but yes the insecurity sure likes to creep in, doesn’t it? Sorry for ramble, I’ve lost my point… just thinking aloud here.

    Oh, focus: The cringe. YES. And yes to your question: of course you can do better, and you will. I believe that wholeheartedly, because I know that we as writers are always learning our craft, and things we’ve written years ago will of course look unpolished to our more learned eyes today; and things we write today will make us cringe (er, hopefully not, actually) ten years down the line. As long as we’re writing, though, we’re always honing, always improving, always setting high standards for ourselves.

  3. I don’t just cringe, I feel real pain and wonder what alien force was in control of my body. The experts are right when they say we should put WIP’s aside and come back to them with fresh eyes.

  4. i agree with W.
    .
    and regarding the novel-in-the-box… you’re being hard on yourself. the book is incredible. there are so many parts where i have to stop and read those sentences again and again just because they floor me. a difficult fit for the-powers-that-be perhaps, but it’s an amazing story and some of the most beautiful writing i’ve ever read. since that time, however, your writing has only gotten a lot better. so much better the novel-in-the-box might look a little ‘less than.’ and your writing will continue to get better, partly/only because of the novel-in-the-box.
    .
    you’re by far a better writer for having written it.
    .
    here’s to novels and boxes and novels in boxes.

  5. I think you can and you probably already have. I feel every time you sit down to write you’re better than where you were the last time you left off. This is the one of the only things I’ve ever pursued (personally), where I feel I learn something new every time I sit down. The follow-through’s a bitch (can I say that?), yes, but believe in yourself. Easier said than done, I know, I really think you have a lot of talent to share with the world, Nova.

    (Maybe just enough confidence to get the work done and just enough insecurity to make them shine?? There’s got to be a balance! And save some room for persistence too…)

  6. Yeah, I have been having some similar confronting moments myself. This meme certainly opened up a can of worms! You used the word “perfect”, I believe that is the key. I want perfection, but I am beginning to see that my desire for perfection is the reason why I can’t seem to finish this current project. Perfectionism can really distort a writer’s perceptions and it can paralyse your output. At the moment I’m persevering with this current story, although I’m trying to call a halt with myself on the constant rewriting.

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