The Pain and Opportunity of Starting Over

pain

God has taught me so many lessons as I continue on this long journey of being a writer. Just like anything in life, if we’re observant, we’ll see lessons everywhere.

I recently learned a valuable lesson about starting over. One step forward, two steps back. We’ve all been there.I’m not sure a lot of non-writers realize the process for a writer looks like this: write, edit, revise, rewrite, repeat. Eventually, the process comes to a conclusion and you (hopefully) publish. But I’d venture to say there’s not much truth in a simple start-and-finish process.

Take my first novel as an example.

  • First draft written in fall of 2013.
  • Edited by me during first read-through in late 2013.
  • Edited by a paid editor in early 2014.
  • Rewritten in fall of 2014.
  • Critiqued by members of my critique group in 2015.
  • Rewritten in large chunks in 2015.
  • Edited for mechanics/grammar again before submission to potential agent in early 2016.
  • First several pages edited by experienced author for upcoming contest in early 2016.
  • Major rewrite of opening chapters for contest this month.
  • Rewrite planned for rest of novel based on above author’s notes during rest of this month.

My mom asked a while ago why I have continued to do so much work on the novel even though I’ve already paid for a professional edit so long ago. The answer was simple to me, but maybe didn’t make much sense to her.

The pain of starting over is overshadowed by the opportunity of becoming better at my craft. 

Consider your past or current goals. Whatever it is, at some point you have to decide if the obstacles in your way are worth overcoming to achieve the end result. In other words, how bad do you want it?

We’re in good company, you and I. Some of the world’s most esteemed artists saw the necessity to sometimes start over. Ernest Hemingway told The Paris Review that he rewrote the ending of Farewell to Arms 39 times! He’s quoted as saying, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.” (Now, surely there’s a point at which we need to trust our craft and hard work, but you get the point.)

Soon after writing the first draft of my novel it seemed clear to me that God had impressed this story upon my heart and wanted me to run with it. I made the commitment to do whatever it took to become published. I began at that moment preparing my heart for the long haul. At every step outlined above my initial reaction was one of defeat. Each one felt like an insurmountable speed bump, a mountain to go around rather than over. The road toward publication often feels like its paved with molasses. It’s slow. It’s clogged with the traffic of other responsibilities, distractions, and God knows a sea of other authors pursing the same dream.

I spent a collective 8 hours this weekend rewriting the first several chapters of my novel. That’s after they’ve been edited and critiqued by at least 8 different readers on my “team.” But the last reader saw something no one else had. It made sense. Something important clicked, catapulting my understanding of fiction writing to a new level. And the pain of starting over was dwarfed in comparison to what I saw waiting at the end of the line. Opportunity to not just be good enough but great.

I’m so incredibly thankful (overwhelmed, really) for the true interest and effort so many people have put in my pursuit of becoming the best writer I can. Many of us write in the same genre and will technically be in direct competition for readers. I’d like to think that writers see our work as collective. Any new story out in the world, on the shelves, adds value to the world. Supporting one another advances the cause.

If you’re in the middle of reaching a goal (not just writing–any goal), what challenges have you faced? How have you overcome them to continue moving forward?

If you’ve got a goal in mind but haven’t yet started the hard work, take some time to write down anticipated challenges and obstacles. Plan your attack, put on your armor. Prepare the fight through the pain.


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14 thoughts on “The Pain and Opportunity of Starting Over

  1. I’ve been there, and I’ll be there again soon–I’m about to send my latest off to a critique partner. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore how it’s possible for 7 people to look at something and not see an opportunity only for the 8th person to point out a stunning path for improvement I hadn’t seen before… Shouldn’t surprise me. Still does 🙂 Like you, I’m grateful to have so many people helping along the way!

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  2. So proud of you! This is a truth many people are too proud to learn. I completely rewrote my first book after submitting it to an agent, and when she called and asked me to change some things, I said, “Done!” hehe! Though it hasn’t found a publishing home, I love that story and will rewrite it and stick with it until it’s ready to go 🙂

    You have been a refreshing privilege to work with, loveliness! ❤

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  3. Some of the favorite scenes in my WIP have been birthed from ideas that came while doing a rewrite, sometimes those ideas had nothing to do with the chapter I was rewriting. I think of it as divine inspiration to move the story in a way God intended. All for the better, of course!

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  4. Been there. A LOT. The beginning of my novel I’m currently getting burnt out with querying to no avail has been rewritten at least three or four times. The first third of the novel needs polished the most. And my first novel I self published in 2014 was rewritten three times and overhauled in large chunks twice over the course of seven years as (I thought) I was learning the craft, honing my voice, etc. Now I read that novel and wonder if I shouldn’t rewrite it completely someday.
    Thank you for this post–so encouraging. 🙂

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