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It’s all in my head

My husband caught me standing in front of my computer staring off into space once. “What are you doing?” he asked.

Me: “Working.”

I’ve been doing a lot of that kind of work lately. Hours and hours of it.

It’s directly related to the revise-and-resubmit letter I got from an editor a couple weeks ago. At first I focused on the minor revisions to fix some less-than-heroic actions on my hero’s part.

That was the easy stuff.

But I’m sure if it were that simple she would have said, “Fix these and I’ll send you a contract.”

How’s that for wishful thinking?

Unfortunately, she also mentioned this pesky thing about the internal conflict getting in the way of them working together toward a common goal. But wait, I thought, what about them trying to stay alive? Find her friend? Stay alive? Hide from the police? Stay alive?

Okay, but I also see where she’s coming from. An agent made a similar point last year. I think the problem is that they don’t start really working together until the second half of the book. They’re stuck together, hiding out together, but totally at odds with each other over a secret the hero’s keeping.

It works for me. My critique partners and beta readers didn’t have a problem with it. But, the industry folks—the ones who rep authors or buy their books, the ones I need to impress—do.

‘Nuff said.

An R&R is hard because there’s no editorial relationship. I can’t ask follow-up questions or push back. I have to go with what I think she meant in her one or two sentences of feedback and hope I know what the hell I’m doing.

So, I’m back to staring off into space a lot, followed by flurries of scribbling in bright colors on too-small whiteboards, and almost no actual writing. There’s nothing to write or revise when I haven’t yet figured out how to keep the essence of the story I love so much, while making it better.

Read: publishable.

All this hard thinking is the reason I started tracking my hours—though I don’t count the time I ponder my MS while driving, running, trying to sleep—in addition to my word count. If I had to gauge my progress by word count right now I’d be looking for a day job again.

Instead, I’ll go back the hard work of staring off into space.

Photo credit: Hansjorn [Public domain, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Reply

    Staring in to space is a job requirement.

    For my latest, the actual writing time – not including minor edit fixes and spelling corrections – actual ass in the chair, 2000 words a day writing was only 7 weeks of the past five months. I started plotting in early September, started writing in November, finished before Christmas and I’ve been in clean up mode since.

    I think it’s the nature of the beast.

    Plotting my next one now, and there will be enough staring in to space to have me committed.

    Which will be great because that will give me TONS of time to write. And stare.

  2. Reply

    Man oh man! I am so there with you. Some of the feedback from the “insiders” sometimes sounds like, change 80% of the novel. It really is about a willingness to kill your darlings.

    We form an attachment to the dialogue, the scene, the beats it took until they came together. And when someone says, just do this earlier, it feels like they may not have read the novel.

    Keep on staring into space. The answer is somewhere between there, and your willingness to make some alterations to this tapestry called your story.

    Good luck, my friend. Just know that you are not alone. I’m there with you in lock-step.

    • Reply

      Thanks so much, Ara. It always helps to know I’m not the only one going through whatever I happen to be going through. (Even though I logically know it already.)

      My story is so linked by cause and effect, it’s hard to figure out how to change one part without overhauling everything. And if I do change it all, she still might not like it. *sigh*

      Good to “see” you again. Hope you’re well!

  3. Reply

    I play solitaire when I’m ‘working’. There’s something about doing a task that takes so little brains but keeps my hand and eyes engaged that,when it works, helps me to move along beneath my own radar.

    so glad to hear I’m not the only who “works” in a way that probably only other writers get

    • Reply

      Good idea, Julianne. I assume you mean with actual cards.

      Maybe I should clean my bathroom. At least that way, even if I don’t get any inspiration, my husband will be happy. Then again, nah. Solitaire sounds like much more fun!

  4. Reply

    This describes me almost perfectly:

    “So, I’m back to staring off into space a lot, followed by flurries of scribbling in bright colors on too-small whiteboards, and almost no actual writing …”

    In my case I’m in the middle of two works in progress. I feel so overwhelmed that I find myself staring into space in an attempt to try and put my arms around either, or both, of the stories. Quite irritating. I’ve never found myself in this situation before. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I just need to be content with this aspect of writing and stay patient, knowing that things will begin to flow again eventually.

    Though I haven’t signed up yet, I’m looking forward to the Scrivener clase next month.

    • Reply

      Dave: Yes! I’m not only in the middle of revisions, I’m in the middle of my NaNo book and doing the same thing with that one. So frustrating.

      I’ve decided this is standard writer behavior. We’re either not crazy, or all writers are crazy. Whatever. 😉

      See you in class!

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