E is for Effort and Expectations

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Welcome! Today is the first double-dip day of the month, with Insecure Writer’s Support Group and the letter E in the A-t0-Z Challenge falling on the same day.

And as it turns out, I have just enough E-type insecurities to make it work.

I’ve reached the point that Effort is a big issue for me. I’m getting into good habits, and doing the things a professional writer should do, according to all the advice and pithy little mottoes. I’m writing every day. I’m writing… actually, kind of a lot every day. And at a thousand words per day, done religiously and with diligence, that adds up to a lot of raw ore.

My hard drive is bowing under the weight of a thousand word (or more) per day. In one of the more shocking moments of my writing life, I was “organizing” the hard drive recently, and found… A 90k manuscript I’d completely forgotten I wrote. So, that’s the situation. I have a LOT of words in a LOT of different stories, in a state of glorious first draft Entropy.

And that’s where Effort comes in.

At some point, if I want to be a professional writer, I have to make the Effort to Edit and revise, at least some of these stories. And… because there’s so much volume in my literary slag heap of doom, I have to choose which stories are worth the Effort.

And that represents a complete, world-shifting change in Expectations.

The first time you write a novel… whatever the genre, and whatever the circumstances… you start out, and you’re not really sure that you can do it. You’re looking at a blank sheet of paper, and wondering how you get from there to War and Peace, or Harry Potter, or the Phone Book (whatever). And the whole thing looks like this monumental, completely implausible, and probably impossible task. After all, you’re going to write something that’s ten times longer than the longest theme paper you ever groaned over in school.

And then–somehow– you finish, and you start editing, and editing that book–the one you weren’t sure you could finish, and you’re not sure you could do again–becomes the impossible task. And you get caught in the quagmire between impossible accomplishment (I wrote a book!) and impossible goals (I have to edit a book?)

I kept writing new things… and I kept editing that first novel. And writing got much, much, much easier.

Editing got easier, too. I “finished” my revision, and sent the novel on submissions, and got rejections where people noticed I had a name, sent feedback, and **gulp** requested future work.

And all this took time. I kept writing, and I have that backlog  of work I mentioned.

The thing about a first novel is that you have the most inexperienced editor working on a manuscript written by the most inexperienced writer. Improve either one of those things, and the whole process gets easier. And quicker. And more plausible.

Of course, that’s also going to mean more output to edit, so in the big picture, there’s always an impossible, implausible task ahead of you. I’m here, deciding whether the first novel is worth the Effort to Edit again, or if I have higher Expectations for one of the more recent novels. Trying to figure out which novel I expect to be my “THE” Novel.

I’m at the point where I’m not ready to give up on the first novel, but my attention is starting to stray. My expectations have changed.

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  1. Reply

    I’m just realising how there is never a point where you (or at least I) can say “I’ve done it–I’m an author now.”

    Finishing first novel? No, because it didn’t get an agent.
    Getting an agent? No, because we haven’t sold it yet.
    Sold a book? But it wasn’t a bestseller.
    Had a bestseller? But now I need to prove it wasn’t a fluke…

    We’re taught so much about handling rejection that I don’t think we know how to graciously take acceptance. I know I don’t!

  2. Reply

    I get that. I keep working on the novel, but start thinking about short stories and new ideas. My muse attention span lately is short–which is what my IWSG is about this month.

    Happy A-Z

    • Reply

      Well, picking by whichever one holds your attention long enough to finish can’t be all bad, can it? I mean, that’s what keeps those pages turning.

    • Reply

      Well, at least it’s an upwardly trending never ending cycle! I’m having fun, anyway. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Jane Helms



    Excellent post! Your words: the most inexperienced editor working on the most inexperienced manuscript… absolutely endearing. Thank you!

    I am slipping those words into my own personal lantern for later, should I ever actually write (never mind finish) a novel.

    • Reply

      I’m glad you got something out of it. That idea–that I’ll be a more experienced writer AND a more experienced editor next time–really does keep me going a lot of days.

  4. Reply

    I finished the first draft of my first novel in January. Now that the short ‘I’m amazing’ phase has worn off.. I’ve realised I probably need to do scene cards and rewrite the entire thing. Not sure I’m ready for that though! You, on the other hand, sound like you really know what you’re doing… And Wow, a 90k manuscript you forgot you wrote?!? that’s crazy!

    • Reply

      I’m sure you’re NOT ready for editing. Put the manuscript away, and write another manuscript. (your own writing is the only thing that will consume your attention enough that you CAN come back with fresh eyes.) Then edit. (And it took me a lot of years to figure that one out.)
      The 90k manuscript is a milestone I didn’t know could even happen, until it did. So, I’m flat out bragging. Thanks for reading!

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