confessions / distractions / first-drafting / freakouts / novels / writing

What Not to Do

This morning, you’ll find me at a desk, smoothing out the first draft of IMAGINARY GIRLS into readable feedback-ready form, my hair braided and my mocha at my side, my hopes really on the line here.

A bad thing to do while getting a first draft ready for the eyes of other human beings whose job it is to give you notes to make it better is to look at what strangers are saying online about your last book. Stupidly did that this morning. Just one glance and saw something that made me cringe. It stung. Ouch. Not a good idea to look at that. Why did I do it!

Remind me not to do that again.

The book I’m writing now feels worlds different from the book that came out this fall—partly because it’s for an older audience, I guess. I remember someone who read both said she knows I loved DANI NOIR and put a lot into it, but she also could see that I was putting my everything in IMAGINARY GIRLS, it was my heart, it was me.

Imagine how difficult it’s going to be when people read IMAGINARY GIRLS then. I can’t even let myself think about it.

Part of being a writer is wanting people to read your work, yes, what’s the point of publication otherwise? But so far what I love the most by far is the process. Those windswept hours writing your pages when only you (and your adorable supportive husband) know about them and you think maybe possibly perhaps it’s going well and the book could turn out to be good.

And when you’re deep into the writing, feeling fine about yourself, feeling like you have potential, feeling okay, it’s not a smart idea to spend a few minutes looking back on the insults. Do. Not. Read. Reviews. Just like when you’re writing you shouldn’t read old rejection letters. Let yourself feel nice for a while, even if it’s fake. Sometimes you need to live in a cloistered fantasy world in order to feel confident enough, gutsy enough, to take creative risks. And I honestly don’t see what’s wrong with that. I’ll come out when I want to… when I’m less fragile… maybe in 2019.

First draft nearing ready, but I haven’t hit Send yet. That will be a whole other dramatic moment I may have to chronicle for your laughing pleasure. I might have to do it with my eyes closed, then run away and hide for a couple weeks.

18 thoughts on “What Not to Do

  1. Awww. I look at negative comments as a way of improving. I can take advice out of it, and make my next story better. If I can’t get anything out of it (this story SUCKS) than obviously it’s a stupid person trying to get off on making someone else miserable. >_> Ignore these people.

    • You’re very right. I do internalize every comment and critique and I don’t forget. I really want the book I’m writing now to be the best it can be, and I’m working hard at it! I think I just should be careful of WHEN I look at reviews, if I do look at them. There really is a time and a place for feedback. This morning just wasn’t it!

  2. Hi! Letting our writing go into the hands of others is difficult but a necessary evil. I invite you to visit my blog where my most recent post addresses that point and how valuable the input can be.

    While you’re in the blog, if you have time, I also invite you to read the Blog Launch Posting from November 4 to see what I’m up to in general. Your comments would be deeply appreciated.

    Meanwhile, good luck with the draft and the SEND button.

    All the best,

    • Thank you so much, Cheri. As soon as I’m done with this first draft, I’ll be sure to go check your blog out. All my best!

  3. Feedback of any sort when you’re in the crucial midst of a first draft can derail the best writer–I hope you put the emotional sting behind you for now so you can focus on your new novel, which I know is going to be AWESOME. And note that Dani Noir, despite criticism, has been getting very good reviews.🙂

    • Aw, thank you for the confidence in me! And I agree: We must be careful when we get feedback when we’re writing a first draft. It all feels so delicate.

      Thank you for being AWESOME yourself.

  4. Nova, do the negative reviews and/or comments negate the good ones? You can’t please everyone. I love writing and reading and good movies, but I seldom listen to a reviewer. I make up my own mind. I’m sure your new book will find its place and have great reviews!

  5. Good job, Nova!🙂

    I was wondering if there has been any thought about the cover yet? For Imaginary Girls, I mean. With a title like Imaginary Girls, I know it’s going to be good!

    • Thanks! Oh, wow, I get so excited about the cover possibilities! The designers at Dutton are so immensely talented, I KNOW the cover is going to be amazing, whatever they decide to do.

      Right now, no talk about the cover yet, but I CAN’T WAIT!

  6. Reviews will be like a drug for me, I’m sure (if somebody buys the book, of course…) I already know I won’t be able to stay away.

    I’ve found the perfect remedy for hitting SEND, by the way. A mixture of xbox, movies, and buying/reading books.

  7. I haven’t had this experience yet, but I can see it as a real pitfall for me. Darnit, Internet! Why must you make everything so accessible? We would never go back through an old folder of reviews on paper!

    • So true! It’s so EASY to see what people are saying about you. I like it better when I don’t know. Lesson learned?😉

  8. One definitely has to go into reviews in the right frame of mind. I read something nasty about Bradford: Fashionista today and was way more bothered than I usually am.
    The thing to keep in mind is that EVERY SINGLE ARTIST gets negative reviews. It’s all subjective, and it’s usually ONE person’s opinion. Unless you absolutely never receive any positive feedback (which is clearly not the case), I wouldn’t let it get to you.
    Though, I am definitely more sensitive when it comes to the labors of love–I take Punk Rock criticism much harder than Ro Com criticism–and I shudder to think of how fragile I’ll be with the newest book…Eek.

    • Thank you, M! I appreciate your advice and experience so much.

      I know what you mean about being fragile for the future book… I’m really thinking it will be a difficult time for me in 2011. But maybe by then I will be used to it!

  9. Nova, you got your draft finished. Excellent.

    Something I keep tucked away when I concertized as a pianist: criticisms are really subjective; they are one person’s “take” on a work of art. If you can learn from the feedback, well, but all means use it. If not, keep moving forward. Think of how many people get pleasure from reading the book.

    • Thank you so much, Debbie! You’re right: It’s important to see if you can learn from the feedback… I am trying to keep an open mind for every future thing.

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