The Low Point in My Story Arc

Post 20 of 31
The Low Point in My Story Arc
I’ve already mentioned Mary Kole’s amazing book, Writing Irresistble Kid Lit, in earlier posts. I’ve had it less than a month, and my copy has already been devoured, highlighted, sticky-noted, dog-eared, and creased. I’ve read quite a few books on writing as a craft, but this one in particular is going to be my go-to writing bible for writing YA. It’s up to date about the state of the industry, but even when the market inevitably shifts, it will still offer the most straight-forward, easy to digest tips on writing kid lit that I’ve seen anywhere, with tons of helpful examples from published authors. (Some of the examples are so compelling, I’m eager to read the full books of  several of the novels Kole cites)

I also like that it so clearly has Kole’s voice – it’s very much a book written from the point of view of an agent who knows exactly what she’s looking for, and what she doesn’t want to see.

Since I’ve so heartily sung the praises of this book, it’s all the more ironic that it’s contributed to a personal writing crisis in my head. Each chapter on character, plot, setting, etc. has been like a flashlight pointing at my work, revealing cracks in my manuscript that I didn’t see before.

I’ve been heavily revising Winter Wilder for the past month. At first I was gung-ho about the process. I felt like I had a clear idea in mind of what needed to be taken out, tweaked, and added. I eliminated entire chapters, zapped several superfluous characters, completely reworked the first third of the novel, and I was feeling pretty good that I was nearing the finish line.

But then I discovered the dreaded butterfly effect… that every change you make ripples throughout your manuscript, messing other things up. A paragraph I edited on page 110 would make it so I had to go back to pages 25-45 to make related adjustments, and then to 214-275 to do the same. Then those changes would spawn yet even more ripples and I’d have to dart back and forth through my manuscript, attempting to smooth out all the wrinkles I created. It felt like I was chasing an elusive sprite, a mischievous little demon who danced between the words and mocked me every step of the way, cackling “You can’t catch me! You can’t fix me! Nyah nyah!

Reading Kit Lit only further crumbled my walls. Does my plot even make any sense? Suddenly my main character seems so bratty and unlikeable, who would even care about her anyway? Is my entire story just plain boring? Is this something I’d even want to read if I were a regular person browsing a bookshelf? With all the high-stakes, super bombastic YA that’s out there my own story about a girl’s literal and figurative transformation and her messed up family seems so quiet, so… meh.

For a few days I couldn’t even touch my manuscript because I hated it so much. I convinced myself that it was a pile of terribly-written garbage and that there was no saving it. I have friends who have been eager to give me feedback, who have been asking me “Sooo.. when can I read your book?”

But, suddenly, I don’t want to show anyone the monster I have created. Because I know they will just point out all the flaws that are already there, starting me in the face. I just want to take my sickly manuscript to the river and drown it quietly. Ok, so maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. But the point is, a part of me wants to give up, and just move on to the next project, which will surely be better… right? Right?

I think part of my despair stems from the fact that these revisions seem never-ending. My beta readers will surely have new critiques and ideas that will have me rework the story even more. And even if I’m fortunate to get an agent, there will likely be even MORE changes to make before the story is ever ready to be pitched to publishers.

It feels so bleak right now, I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But I also know this is a normal part of the writing process… that every writer hates their work at one more points, and they simply must keep working at it until they fall in love again and remember why they wrote the damn thing in the first place.

So I will push through this muck and strive to do as many revisions as it takes to make my story the absolute best it can be. Because, as impatient as I am to get the ball rolling, and start querying… I don’t want to blow my chances with a sub-par manuscript. I have to make it as strong as I can.

And hey, I spent all that time making this fancy website. I’m not about to let that go to waste! ;)

This article was written by Tania


UrielDecember 2, 2012 at 1:24 amReply

Hi Tania,

WOW! If I felt your pain before, then time time I feel like I am living it.

This was written several weeks ago, so I am hoping this was a temporary bump, and that you found the grit to fight your way back through the slog. I forget the source but one quote that always sticks with me is “art is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” And, from what I have read of other authors, and their struggles, your comments are a true reflection of the process.

I have the same spiteful, ruinous inner monologue myself. And yet horrifyingly, I would never be so discouraging to anyone else. I would emphasise the positive and, more than anything, find ways to boost their confidence and nudge them towards their goals.

My sin is to become so wrapped up in the despair that I do nothing. It’s a great way of avoiding any thoughts of failure I find. Except, of course, it’s not. It only leads to greater self loathing, in that I know I have the capability but am wasting my abilities. But there is also some sad comfort in that too. The knowledge that I am fulfilling my expectation of myself.

NaNoWriMo passed me by completely. I wrote some notes, doodles really. But they did amplify what I had already written. I have yet to go back and allow them to mould the project. So starting from today I shall be less unkind to myself. I shall set apart one hour each day for the next week and just slog. I will forget about being inspired. I will turn off that runty little inner monologue and just put words onto the page. I will not care if they do not seem right. It will just be one little hour each day.

Thank You.


TaniaDecember 6, 2012 at 2:01 pmReply

Thanks for sharing, Uriel!

I didn’t end up getting anywhere near by NaNoWriMo goal, but like you said, it doesn’t pay to beat myself up over it. At first I felt guilty, as though I were letting myself down. But as much as it would have been nice to have completed an entire novel in November, I ultimately realized it was pulling me away from my other task of getting Winter Wilder revised and ready to be sent out to agents. So I ended up spending the month of November revising what I had already written. Not nearly as satisfying as getting a shiny new word-count, but I’m not going to look at it as failure. It was progress, and that’s what matters in the end.

Let’s both commit to being kinder to ourselves! ;) And good luck with getting through the barrier with your daily exercises!