Give up? Start over? Get a job stacking shelves in some shitty supermarket? Turn into the dull, grey, dying-inside person you’re afraid of?
I’ve spent all summer editing. Both the third and fourth Fleet Quintet novels were already written but needed work. I deliberately didn’t get a summer contract so that I could concentrate on this, without distraction. (I also had a health problem to overcome.) This has meant a very long summer with very little money and quite a dreary time of it in over-baked London.
Only one section of V. Gomenzi really needed work, while Commences needed quite a lot of re-shaping. Now that it’s officially the fourth Fleet novel and not the first, there could be more revelations and explanations. This really helped what had always been a difficult and obfuscated story. Finally I was done editing and formatting (unbelievably tiresome but it has to be done) and could get on with the final step: proofreading V. Gomenzi. The best way, I’ve found, to approach a novel freshly is to send it to myself on Kindle and read it there. The novel looks quite different to a computer screen and errors leap out at you very quickly.
I began proofing today but didn’t get very far as I realised – with horror – that the first chapter is terrible. It’s heavy and overwritten and slow and dull dull dull. How could I not have noticed this? Is the rest of the novel like this? Years and years of working on this, on countless drafts, countless reworkings. I thought it was my best work, the most mature, the most complex, the most defined – and it’s SLUDGE?
Worse than perceiving myself to be a failure of a writer is that there are SO MANY bad writers, traditionally published and self-pubbed. In the latter sector, only porn makes money. There was once honour in being a failed writer – they were always the most interesting, the most tortured characters in murder mysteries. What is the point of a bad writer now? Or doesn’t it matter if you think no one is going to read it anyway??