Getting Out Of My Own Way

I had big plans for my second novel this year.


I was going to finish the second draft, send it out for feedback from my beta readers, complete revisions based on that feedback, polish up a final draft and submit it to my publisher for consideration – all by the end of June!


Well, here we are nearing the end of November and I have tentatively finished a third draft, based on feedback from my beta readers, but I’m definitely not at the polishing stage yet. It needs at least one full read-through to check it all makes sense, it needs another read-through to try and add some extra detail and deepen the emotion, and then I can maybe start the final editing and polishing process.


So, five months after I’d planned to submit it, I’ve still got a lot of work to do.


But that’s okay.


And I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way.


Most recently and most importantly – that I need to release myself from my own expectations sometimes. I’ve had a clear revision plan for the novel for months now and I haven’t been able to make any real progress on implementing it, which has been extremely frustrating.


But, in the last week, I came to the realisation that I was putting way too much pressure on myself. I had a set idea about how and when I would submit, and a set idea about how long it needed to be. And that was stopping me from working on it, because I was expecting to be able to produce a final publication-ready draft at the end of the next round of revisions.


Which was utterly ridiculous.


I was only really at the stage of making quite significant changes to the plot and particularly the climax. You can’t do that and expect what you end up with to be perfect. It may not even make sense, since I’ve been shoving new plot points and character development in fairly at random. There’s no way this thing is ready for a publisher!


And that’s still okay.


But, because I had a timeline in mind and am now way past all my deadlines, it felt like I needed to rush to finish, in order to try and catch up with an impossible schedule that was already well out of the window, and had only been set by me.


So, I let go of my timeline and just focused on getting the words down, not worrying about whether or not they were any good, or if there were enough of them. And, with that mindset, I completed my revisions in four days – and I didn’t even work that long on any of those days!


And now I have a new draft that I can work to improve, though I’m not going to look at it again for a few weeks because I think I’ll do a better job on it after I’ve given it some space.


It will eventually be ready to submit, but it doesn’t matter if that’s now going to be next year (it is) because there’s no point in pushing myself to produce something sub-standard by an arbitrary deadline just for the sake of it.


I do want to finish. I do want to submit. And, to that end, I do want to make sure I keep working on it and progressing towards that goal. So I will keep setting myself deadlines and keep making big plans. But hopefully, I won’t beat myself up so much if I don’t hit them all.


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