I first met LaShawn at Odyssey Con in Madison, Wisconsin a few years ago, and am continually amazed at her fearlessness and the strength of her convictions. We both submitted stories to Dark Faith: Invocations; mine didn’t make the cut, but hers did, and I encourage you to read it.
Novel Evolution IGNITE (or how to endure Revision Hell)
I have a confession to make. I always tear up at Digimon.
You know the parts where Digimon is in danger–Digimon, Pokemon, Beyblade, whatever, I have a 9 year old, don’t judge me–and it looks like the poor thing is beaten to a pulp and it’s going to die–wait, no, sorry–pass out. Just when things look bleak, the kid/trainer/pseudo cock-fight master yells, “Come on! You can do it! Keep trying! You can’t give up now!” And blazing golden light flare up around the Digimon/beyblade/pokemon and they become STRONGER and they BEAT THE BAD GUYS and SAVE THE DAY and even TAKE OVER THE WORLD.
It’s all sappy and sweet and manipulative tripe, yet, dang it, I always get weepy eyed over it.
Because sometimes they don’t win. Sometimes the Beyblade breaks or the battle is lost. When that happens, the kids don’t give up. They take their broken Beyblade/Digimon/Pokemon, fix them up, then they do more training. Some day, they’re going to win that ultimate battle. Someday they’ll get that shiny trophy. Someday they evolve that pokedigimonblayde into something beautiful and powerful; who knows, maybe it’ll even be capable of destroying the world. But it can’t happen without the constant training.
I’ve been working professionally on my first novel for over nine years now. I say professionally because, in reality, I started writing this novel in college, but I didn’t get serious about it until nine years ago. I then threw out what I originally had and started over from scratch. I finished the novel in 2010, workshopped it at Viable Paradise in 2011, and now I’m working on the second draft. I sent it out to my reader list, they said it was better, but there’s still some problems to fix, which means I have to do yet another draft.
This is what they call Revision Hell. I want this book to be done. I want it all over with. I want to quit.
Thing is, there’s this part inside of me that refuses to quit. There’s a tiny little pokemon/digimon/Beyblade trainer inside of me that says, “Don’t give up, LaShawn! You can do it! Tackle those issues! Write those extra scenes out! Cut those characters! Make that plot point clearer! Come on! You can’t give up now!” Occasionally, though, that little trainer gets drowned out by low self-esteem monsters. “You can’t do it,” they cry. “How long have you’ve been working on this? Quit wasting your time. What was that line about polishing turds? Give up. You can’t win.”
This is why it’s so important to have beta readers. People you can trust to say, “This is crap.” or “This is crap, but if you do this, this and this, it won’t be crap anymore.” Or, “Don’t give up. You’re almost there. I really like this. Keep writing!”
For the longest time, I wouldn’t show my work to anyone, thinking I could trust myself to figure out problems on my own. They say that writing is supposed to be a lonely business, but I’ve found that not to be the case. You need another pair of eyes. You need people you can trust who can give you the advice you need to make your story better. And you need people to help cheer you on. To give you the motivation you need to get yourself back out there, on the field, to keep going, even when you want to quit.
Without that outside influence, I would have given up long ago.
So let this post be your personal cheerleader. If you’re in revision hell, don’t give up. Keep working on your book. Each editing pass will make it more fit, more ready. There are plenty of ways to find readers. Join a critique group, or attend a workshop (Viable Paradise is now open for submissions, just to throw out a suggestion) And keep revising. Even when you don’t want to. Even when you want to quit. Finish that book.
And one day, when you release that book into the world, and it digivolves into a ravenous, New York Times slaying best-seller that rips out people’s hearts and brings about the Amazon Apocalypse, just be sure to thank me on your credit page.
LaShawn M. Wanak is a graduate of Viable Paradise. Her short fiction can be found at Daily Science Fiction, EscapePod and Ideomancer as well as in the anthologies What Fates Impose and Dark Faith: Invocations. Her newest story, “21 Steps to Enlightenment (Minus One)” will be published at Strange Horizons on February 3, 2014. Visit her at her blog, The Café in the Woods.