Too Many Cooks
Reading Steph Keyes’ blog post from a few weeks ago struck a chord that resounded deep within my writer’s soul; her post was about knowing when you are done revising and the confusion that can arise when you collect too much feedback. In her “quest” to improve her manuscript, as she says, I had cast my net so wide…that I’d somehow accumulated too many opinions and changed far more than I needed to.
Don’t I know that feeling! I’ve done it with two manuscripts that are now sitting in a state of total paralysis from all the over-revising I’ve done to them. Not to mention, that, like Steph, I’ve received recent feedback on both that indicated to me that all I had edited out, should probably go back in to address the gaps in plot and character that I now have as a result of “too many cooks in the kitchen”.
For the past five years, between countless editors and an agent and rejections and near hits and total misses…I’m emotionally spent in terms of too much coming in. Too much feedback and too much of it contradictory and vague…All of it blurring together so it sounds like the wha-wha-wha of the grownups in the Peanuts cartoons.
My Overfilled Well
My creativity is a well overfilled and muddied with messages, advice, instructions, situations, and events from the last 12 plus years, starting from the moment I won an award for my first novel, My Sister’s Wedding, all the way through the last round of feedback for my most recent submissions.
A well is useless if the water is dirty and overflowing. Either I fix the well or maybe even demolish the damn thing and start over.
Advice from Meghan Trainor
Let it go. You need to let it go as Meghan Trainor says in her new song NO! She says it about a guy she’s trying to lose while I’m trying to lose old messages—but same idea. I need to let go of these old, dried up, tired messages that have done nothing but keep me distressed, depressed, and anxious. I want to do a ceremonial burning of it all…I want it all gone, all of it! Not the actual work. Not the actual books or manuscripts but the words and feedback and advice because I took it all in and I applied it all ferociously, without much discrimination or filter.
I’m taking a break from writing YA novels. I think that writing YA fiction, for me, for the last 12 years has been about trying to please someone else—agents, editors, and mentors. Today, I write for the love of writing, for the value of expression, and if what I have to say connects with you, dear reader, then that’s fantastic! As for what will happen to the 10 manuscripts sitting in my computer in a folder aptly entitled WIPS, I will go back into each one (eventually), finish the final revisions, and as I do, I will call upon the great Steph Keyes and her words about knowing when the book you are writing is finished:
“It’s done when you’ve told the story you set out to tell. Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone will like it or love it, but you have to.”
Hannah R. Goodman is a writer (among 500 other things) in Rhode Island and founder of All The Way YA. She can be found on Twitter at @hannahrgoodman