Today’s post is by Olivia Newport.

You know that moment when you have the most stupendous idea ever for a story? You go into a frenzy. Words gush. And it just gets better. This is going to be amazing. Pour some more coffee.

Or not.

Maybe you’d rather have a root canal than admit those last ten pages are yours.

Keep your teeth, but remember the feeling.

Writing leaves little time for preening. Even when you type “The End” (do writers really do that? I never have), you are nowhere near the end. Not even close.

You might as well pin your story to the wall and grab a handful of darts. Because let’s face it, somebody else is going to poke at it and see if it holds up.

Editors—often two in a traditional publishing house—will offer affirmation first, then … that other stuff. Kindly said, usually, but still finding the holes you did not see. Open those eyes.

Reviewers will read 100,000 words and then write 150 words that can make your heart sink when you wanted it to sing. Oh so close.

Bloggers will read. They don’t want to be one of those people who gives every book five stars, so they don’t. Not what you had in mind.

You can drive yourself bonkers reading online reviews on retail or reading group sites. Ouch.

Readers tell their friends face to face and you never even get to hear those conversations. Probably just as well.

So when you’ve written something you’re proud of and can reel off 126 reasons why it’s outstanding craft, pat yourself on the back and then get back to work. Be your own nemesis. Where is your weak point, usually, and what have you done about it in this instance? What is your strength, and have you maximized it? Have you done away with the excess shrugging and sighing (personal weak spots) and cleared the clutter that could get in the way of experiencing the story?

Be the first to criticize your own work, because someone else is going to. That is basic publishing business reality.

Then straighten your shoulders and outline three ways you can make your story better.

Now you might think that this could be a never-ending loop, and it can. I find that when I read the final proofs of my books, days before they are due to the printer, I still cringe at some sentences. But it’s too late.

At that point I remember how hard I was on myself earlier and how much the work paid off. Whatever lessons I am still learning, I will carry forward into the next story.

Am I being too harsh? Some might think so. After all, writing brings me many joys. Among them are the reassurance that I have not lost the gift of learning and the confidence that I have been diligent in pursuing excellence.

 

Olivia Newport is the author of The Pursuit of Lucy Banning (May 2012), Accidentally Amish (October 2012) and the forthcoming The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow (January 2013).

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