Scaling the Peak

Or, the Joys of Accomplishment

mountains-690716_640There’s a reason seasoned novelists advise beginners to start with short stories. Learn the craft in small chunks, they say. Figure out how to create characters and write dialogue, play with setting and theme on a small scale. Then you’ll have the basics down when you expand to your epic novel.

Lots of wisdom there.

Of course I ignored it.

Not solely out of sheer willfulness. I’ve written short stories, and I don’t do them well. Maybe it’s because I get too complicated. Or my mind is too convoluted.

I labored over one story for months, only to have several beta readers tell me it was better suited to be a novella, or even a full blown novel.

That story is still sitting in the drawer (really a file on my hard drive). Some day I’ll pull it out and try to do something with it.

However, I have to admit it wasn’t a useless exercise.

I learned a lot about writing dialogue. Specifically, how not to write dialogue. My characters were all speaking “on the nose,” as they say. They spoke directly to each other, saying exactly what they meant. Instead of how we all really talk to each other, avoiding saying certain things, answering the questions we want to answer. Or sometimes telling bald-faced lies.

Which brings me to why I’m struggling so much with revising my novel.

I don’t have all the basics down.

I know I have a good story; feedback from several have told me that.

The way I tell it just isn’t as good as it could be. It’s a little uneven. At times the characters are predictable; at others, they just about leap from the page, living and breathing for just a moment. My challenge is keeping them that way, seizing the readers’ interest and emotions.

And then there’s setting. My horror of boring the reader with detail causes me to write as if my characters live in white rooms and empty halls, not a stick of furniture or stray trash in their paths.

I could do what so many others do, and just go ahead and publish. But somehow I can’t ask someone to pay me for work that I know isn’t my best. So I keep plodding through, trying to revise and polish.

junkAt times it feels like cleaning up a mountain of junk, like the detritus of a life pulled from cupboards and closets, an overwhelming tedious chore of trying to sort the gems from the rubbish.

Then there’s the moment I had this week. I finished up a short project, cover and formatting and all. Excitement welled up within me like a spring bubbling in a forest, spilling over and starting a stream that could someday become a river.

I had achieved something. The joy of achievement gave me the momentum to push on and keep striving. One day I’ll get that novel done. And the sense of accomplishment and the pleasure it gives my readers will make my joy overflow all the more.

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