What follows is fiction and it's fiction of my own creation so don't somehow assume that it's some sacred truth because it isn't because I made it up. It's a total lie and so I wanted to get it off my chest right away and now I feel better and you feel better and we're both ready to continue. Great. What I'm going to make up is 4 emotional stages of writing a book and I promise you I haven't read about this anywhere and it's based on my own personal writing experience which is not very big, really. Only 2 years. Therefore, what follows needs to be read with caution and with an uninhibited mind. Deal? Deal. Now, this is what happened in the last few weeks.
In the last few weeks I've been whining all over social media about how hard it is for me to write IRKADURA and bla-bla-bla and I even celebrated the finishing of the 3rd draft thinking it was the last when it wasn't and now I'm writing the 4th draft. Funny, I know. Laugh all you want. What is even funnier is that no matter how bravely I tried to put up a happy facade online and joke and do my usual silly stuff, people have noticed. Here is what I got from concerned readers.
Madeline Courtney asked: "I was wanting to say...are you okay? I and a bunch of other followers and readers have noticed a change in you. I mean, I guess it's none of our business really, but we're worried about you. You used to be funny and happy and excited about writing and you really inspired us to keep going and never give in. In fact, your SIREN SUICIDES novel helped me through a very tough time in my life... but lately, the past year really, you've seemed darker. Less cheery and the happy Writer you once were, the one we've grown to know and love. I guess what I'm saying is... if you need anything, anything at all, we're here for you. You can talk to us, your readers."
THANK YOU MADDIE AND MY READERS!
I love you to pieces and here I will finally explain what is happening in the 4 emotional stages of writing that I seem to be descending into when I write.
STAGE 1: I'M WRITING SHIT AND I'M HAPPY!
I have noticed that despite the fact that all 1st drafts are shit, it's the writing of the 1st drafts that I love the most because I'm creating something I have no idea about and I'm excited and I feel temporal winds of inspiration blowing in my face and up my ass and pushing me forward forward forward and the blank page that is so happy to receive my words and the idea in my head uncoiled and uncoupled and dumped on pages and words counted and all that happy conundrum. Now, the reason this is the happiest stage is because there is nothing to critique yet or to edit. I'm doing the very first pass of the story, I'm excited because I don't know where it will take me and I actually don't even know what the story is about. While I'm in this writing stage I'm happiest.
STAGE 2: I'M EDITING AND IT'S SHIT.
This is the stage where the happiness begins to subside. You actually take time off (well, I do, I take a couple weeks off between drafts) and then when you read what you wrote you think, oh dear God, did I really write this awfulness? And you want to dunk your head in a lant vat and hurl rocks at yourself and never show your face in the street or talk to your neighbors because you're ashamed ashamed ashamed, and you can't understand how could you be so happy writing this. This is the point when many writers give up. Don't. Feeling like this is normal (says she who freaks out over every 1st draft of every book). This is probably the hardest draft (or stage, because it's not necessarily one draft) because you have to organize the mess you made and you have to wade through it and it stinks and it's slippery and some parts don't make sense and the characters don't make sense and you want to give up. This stage is an eye opener. For the first time you start seeing the story and understanding what it is about.
Side note: I'm talking here about the non-plotting writing approach, so all plotters, chill. You're awesome and this probably applies to you as well only you go through this stage in your head instead of on paper. Anyway.
The fact that you see your draft is shit is a good thing because you know what to fix.
STAGE 3: I'VE EDITED SHIT OUT AND NOW I'M LOST.
Here we go. You've fixed everything you thought you needed to fix and now you lave up your vodka and your belly has this bulbed look and you're setting out to polish what you've got because it's still rough and it needs another go and you start all optimistic and guess what happens next. Next you see that despite all that stuff that you thought you've fixed the story is still not solid. So you work on it, and work on it, and cut it and cut it and shape it and get to the point where you don't know what else to do except to move forward because you want to finish it already and it's still not perfect and you're beginning to lose faith. This is another place where you badly want to quit. It's also another place where some writers stop and think they're done. I did that too. Hey, I did that with ROSEHEAD. I could've slowed down and gone through it one more time but I was so excited that I thought I was done. Well, I suppose I'm growing as a writer, because I did go through the next stage with SIREN SUICIDES but I overdid it, I did it twice, so with ROSEHEAD I decided not to do it at all. Now, with IRKADURA I wanted to squirm out and skip but deep inside my cowardly soul I knew I wasn't done. In this phase your book is getting to a good place. The problem is, you don't see it yet and so you feel lost and you feel sort of happy like you're done but also unhappy because you feel like you're not. Here comes the last stage.
STAGE 4: I'M EDITING AND I'M HAPPY!
I'm in this stage right now and I'm happy. This is why I was so gloomy (sorry my dear readers) because I have tried to bite off more than I could too fast. IRKADURA is not an easy book to write so I couldn't possibly skip stage 4 like I did with ROSEHEAD, and I let that feeling of being lost get under my skin. What is happening right now is close to a miracle. I no longer fret. I know the story inside out. I know exactly what to fix. I am happy with the result. I go along and edit emotionally detached from the story as if it's not mine and I don't even blast loud music while working (this is the first time that I'm writing/editing without music) because I don't need to "pump myself up" anymore. I'm know what I'm editing, I know where the story is going, I know what I want it to look like. I can't wait now to move on to my next book, CORNERS, for which I will do a Kickstarter, to apply everything I've learned and do an even better job.
There. Is this explanation enough? I hope so. Writing IRKADURA took me the last 6 months, so hopefully you didn't think I was gloomy this whole last year. I was very happy writing ROSEHEAD, I think. Wasn't I?
I've loosely applied this emotional stages idea to the numbers of drafts but it doesn't have to be. It's really what every artist goes though with any creative project. The initial innocence of excitement, the realization that it's not that good and needs work, the feeling to emptiness when it seems like you've put your best effort in it and it's still not good, and, finally, the knowledge about what needs to be done to make it the best work of art possible.