ACW

ACW

Friday, 13 November 2015

Pressing through the Murky Middle by Amy Boucher Pye

Photo: Laura Ritchie, "After the Edit," Flickr
As writers, we pour out our hearts onto the page. We open a vein and bleed as we put ourselves out there for criticism. We wonder why oh why do we do this; why couldn’t we work in a bank or maybe get a job in marketing? But we can’t not write. We have to; it’s part of who we are and what we do. It’s how we share what we know. How we are known.

As we’re working on the big projects – usually a book – we often hit a wall in our writing. Perhaps it’s as with a marathon and it’s the twentieth mile. We’ve done our %^$^% first draft and wait for comments from our editor/agent/reviewers.

We open the email and take a deep breath, quickly scanning for anything positive to shore up our energy in order to face the criticism. For at this point our book-baby feels so embryonic and tiny; we’re not sure if it can take the criticism, or if we will be tempted to abort. With the goal in mind – the birth one day of this project – we hunker down to read the full extent of the critique.

We may have to lie down afterwards. To recover we may turn to wine/chocolate/a mindless rom com or action film. We may complain and whine to those closest to us, but we’re careful not to alienate our editor/agent/reviewers, for especially in the case of our agents and editors, they are our advocates and champions.

And then after a time to lick our wounds, whether a couple of days or a couple of weeks, we roll up our sleeves and attack the rewrite. But soon we become overwhelmed, for we feel it’s too hard, and our editor/agent/reviewer asks too much from us. We’ve hit the murky middle and so much inside us wants to pull the plug. We feel crippled at the extent of the rewrites, for when we submitted that first draft, although we knew it wasn’t perfect, we thought it was a lot better than it turned out to be. We didn’t anticipate the amount of rewriting that would face us. The levels we’d have to plumb to uncover our voice – our opinions, our thoughts, our creativity. We feel unable to face those words – our words – again. We feel we are defacing our baby with cruel barbarity.

Photo: openDemocracy, hourglass_cropped, Flickr
But this, writing friends, this is our moment. This is the time to rise, for if we don’t dig deeply, our book may be still-born. If so, later on we’ll look back and admit that although it contains some good passages, with hints of brilliance here and there, it wasn’t our best creation. We weren’t forced to look deep within; we weren’t forced to kill our darlings; we now cringe at the places where we weren’t challenged.

Yet when we press through the murky middle, putting to one side our squeaky inner voice that protests about cutting that passage or thinking that surely everyone knows this and why do I have to explain, we can find gold and diamonds. Here is where we find the riches – the things we were trying to say or the things we thought we were saying. Here is where we can connect with our reader, forming that glorious conversation that can transcend time and geography as we influence, entertain, and inspire.

This is the price of a good piece of writing, which yes, might be the price of blood. But for those of us who were made to write, we find satisfaction in nothing less.


Have you faced the murky middle in a project? If so, how did you handle it? (I did with Finding Myself in Britain – read my reaction here to the wonderful and insightful 13-page critique.)


Amy Boucher Pye worked in Christian publishing for two (plus) decades before launching into the writing/speaking life. She runs the Woman Alive book club and loves writing devotional thoughts. Her first book is Finding Myself in Britain: Our Search for Faith, Home & True Identity (Authentic Media, 2015). She blogs at amyboucherpye.com and tweets at @AmyBoucherPye.

10 comments:

  1. You have hit the nail on the head Amy. I believe we all feel like this. I have heard many well known writers say that every time they write a book they feel like they can't do it. That this will be the one that finishes their career. It is good to know that others feel the same and we can get through it

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    1. And I didn't realize the timing was so good for you all doing NaNoWriMo - nearly right in the middle!

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  2. I can identify with this feeling, although I'm not as far on as you in terms of getting stuff published. It's so easy to get bogged down in the middle of something and feel like there's no way through it - but it helps to know I'm not the only one.

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    1. Ah you definitely aren't the only one! Keep on keeping on...

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  3. This is so true and a great encouragement to me as I rewrite a section of my book after feedback. Glad even experienced writers feel like this. It makes me feel I am not alone :) Great post. Thank you, Amy.

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    1. Thanks Deborah! Yes, we need to support each other, don't we.

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  4. I've said to so many people that being edited has been the most painful and valuable experience I've ever had. The day I got the first series of edits for book-baby number one, I drove round rugby crying for hours!

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    1. Most painful/most valuable. Love how you've put it.

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  5. I think the most painful thing about being edited is that you think you're at the end of a process and THEN you find you're only in the middle! It would be like running the London Marathon and then, just as you approach the finish line, someone says, 'Oops. Did no one say? It's 52 miles these days.'

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    1. Love that comparison with the marathon, Fran. Yes and yes!

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