I want to quit

(I added an addendum to this, so you might want to read that as well.)

I want to quit. I want to pull all my books off the Internet, go curl up in a ball, and cry myself to sleep.

How dare I even try to write an entire book. Who am I to think my words would be worth reading. They are stupid, grammatically incorrect, full of inconsistencies and pov issues, unworthy of anyone ever reading, let alone actually paying for.

I knew a lot of this before I wrote a novel. I knew, for example, that I almost always miss compound words because I just don’t know when a word is a compound or when it is two words. I often over use commas (according to some), and I sometimes forget to add dialog tags because I just don’t think about it.

I knew all of that, and more, but I dared to write a novel anyway.

Then I got the edits back, and I struggled through them for days. I learned about dialect issues, and phrasing. I learned that subtle points of description are sometimes pov issues. I learned that words and phrases I use every day aren’t considered “proper English.”

When done with the edits I was exhausted, sad, and feeling like I made a mistake. I expressed my frustrations and heard “the editor is only trying to help” and then I went in my room, and I cried.

Editing hurts.

This was my first “professional edit.” I’ve gotten edits before, but this was completely different, and it hurt. It cut deep and it left me thinking “what the hell was I thinking trying to write a novel? You’re not good enough, Crissy. You don’t even speak proper English, how can you write it? You never should have tried this.”

I’ll be honest. I haven’t written anything in three days. I’m trying. I look at the page and all I see are all the mistakes. I can’t get out of editing mode and get back to writing. And yes, some of it is definitly self pity, but a huge part of it is just me unsure if I am good enough to do this thing that I’ve always wanted to do. Is there a good enough?

Every editor I’ve had before has added some encouraging comments. They said they liked a line, or I used that punctuation right, or when returning the manuscript there is a note just saying how much they really enjoyed it.

This editor did none of those things.

Gregg reassures me that the editor is doing their job. They are paid to edit, not hold my hand and encourage me. And I get that, I really do. But it doesn’t sting any less.

I want to quit. I want to run away and forget I ever tried this.
But I’m not going to.

I still think my stories are good stories. I still think they deserve to be told. I want them to get out and be read.

Maybe it’s the “professional writer” part I’ll reevaluate, and just be happy being a pulp fiction writer. It’s not a bad thing. I love pulp fiction books. Millions of people read pulp fiction every day. Maybe it’s not exactly what I wanted, but it beats not writing at all.

Am I happy I did the editing? Not today. Today I’m raw and hurt and unsure of everything I’m doing. Give me some time and maybe I will be.

Did I learn anything from it? Lots of things. In that way this experience was good for me. Hopefully it will make my writing stronger. Only time will tell.

Will I do this again?

I’ll be honest with you…My confidence is a fragile thing. Every time I get shredded like this I hear the ex husband in my ear telling me over and over and over that I’m not good enough. No one will ever love me. No one will ever want me. “Who told you to think that way?” I hear it, and slip back into the victim I use to be. I start feeling useless and worthless like I will never, ever, be good enough for anything. And I retreat into the shell I carefully built around me to keep from being hurt. It makes me want to quit.

So no, I won’t be doing this exact process again. I need the little bits of hand holding, and encouragement. I need to know that the person editing my work genuinely likes it so that when the red ink starts flowing it doesn’t hurt quite as much.

Maybe in a few years my nerves will be a little less raw and I can try again. But not now…not after this one.

And the best part? I have two more rounds of editing to go. I’m going to do it. I’m going to pull up my big girl pants and I’m going to wade through the red ink. Then I’m going to go cry a little more and do it all over again.

Because sometimes making good art hurts like hell.


20 thoughts on “I want to quit

  1. I was just thinking today how crappy of a writer I was when I first started. Incomplete sentences and all. I’m still not great. But it gets better. YOU will get BETTER! It simply takes TIME.

  2. Oh Crissy- I haven’t read most of the Witch’s Sacrifice (Mermaid’s Curse), but I read enough scenes to know you already are a professional author. Your writing integrates ephemeral characters with the hard edges they must adopt to survive the obstacles you erect. Your writing is beautiful, terrifying and lyrical. You help me aspire to write better fiction.

    I had an editor on my first short story whose only comment was my character names were ridiculous, and reminded her of Daffy Duck. All because I used the Welsh name Daffyd, which I know from three real guys. She had very little red ink, as if it was not worth editing. I was a project manager on the anthology for which she was editing, and heard about her encouraging comment from every author. But not my story. I was devastated- releasing your first anything puts you in such a vulnerable position.

    But because of your writing and that of a few other authors, I started again. Take the time to grieve, but remember there are authors and readers that love your work. You are an artist, take pride in that fact. (And screw your idiotic ex).

    Thanks~ Cathy Pelham

    Sent from my iPad


    • Crissy- I need to rescind some of my comment here. Your post apparently opened up some untapped insecurities in me. My editor was great, and actually made my story much stronger. I responded to my own fragility about my work. I do stand by my comments about your writing, which is inspirational and very professional. Please forgive my slip.

      • Oh no, you didn’t say anything wrong.

        I think artists are prone to insecurity. It comes with opening up our hearts and minds to share with the rest of the world.

    • This is an awesome comment! Thank you so much for the encouragement.

      With editors… Not everyone is going to work well together. I think Daffyd is an awesome name (and I think I’m stealing that for my next novel). Sometimes it’s that personalities don’t mesh well, other times they just aren’t that into it.

      I’ve gotten some edits from people who just weren’t that good at it either. They didn’t find much, or corrected the wrong thing. It happens.

      I’m convinced you have to find the right editor for you, but that stepping away from that editor sometimes to get a second opinion will also open your eyes to other things, like this did for me.

      I hope people will love my book when it finally comes out next month.

  3. Crissy,
    Hang in there. That’s how we win. The only way we win. Edit it to the point where you can’t make it any better now and write the next story. Virtual hugs. I think my first novel’s first edit had more red pen than black printer ink. I did take some breaks, months and even years, when the 562 rejections for 12 sales was too much. But I came back to it because I tell stories. I think you do to. Keep telling them. Share them when you’re ready to share them. Start with kind editors. I use my writer’s group. But most of all persevere!

    • I don’t think this was a mean editor, just a really damn good one with very strict ideas of what is proper English.

      I hope I can have an editor that is both kind and real good.

  4. There are no kind professional editors. They just tell you what they have to do tell you based on what you provide them. It isn’t a nice feeling to be ripped apart, but it’s the only way you’ll get better.

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘pulp fiction’. We all write pulp fiction. That isn’t an excuse for putting out less than your best.

    I believe you can work through it and put out a good book. Just take the crit and learn from it. If you really want to make it, then you have no choice.

    Back to editing… go go go.

    • I don’t think you and I mean “kind” in the same way. You can rip something to shreds and still love the work. I’ve worked with an editor that was passionate about my books before. He loved them, and personally wanted to see me get better and grow as an author. I thought that was fantastic. He shredded my work because that was a kindness, and also gave me feedback on what I was doing right, too. “Do more of this and less of this” kind of thing. And I know that I’ve gotten better over the last two years.

      I’ve read lots of stories about writers who liked their editors, talked to them, and got encouraging words from them about their work. And these were traditionally published authors. I don’t think that it is a bad thing to like the thing you are working on.

  5. I’ve read a lot of indie stuff and am very picky. There’s a very short list of indie authors (3 or 4) I’ve continued reading and you’re on that list, Crissy. So you’re not allowed to stop 🙂

    I’m proofreading Greenstar season two at the moment and I’ve found a long, long list of things wrong with it. This is after both Dave and I have edited it. No one is perfect.

    I would say that your strengths are:
    – Believable characters;
    – Strong story lines;
    – Great twists;
    – Vivid worlds;
    – Unique elements.

    So what if proper grammar isn’t on that list? Would you want to replace any of those other things with proper grammar? Let your editor be the one worrying about the grammar.

    Finally, if you need positive feedback and the editor isn’t giving it, then you just need a different editor. I’ve had four different editors and they’ve all been dramatically different in their approaches.

    • Oh yes, I’ve worked with lots of different editors, and each one is different. They each have strong points, or bad points. I think the trick is finding the one you work well with that improves your writing, and understands it. Not everyone writes the same, after all. Reading Rothfuss or Martin is totally different than Dan Brown or Anne Rice.

      I’m not giving up… just…taking a break for a bit.

  6. When editing I always try to highlight things that work as well as things that don’t; and I would even were I not a kind person.

    Because telling the author which bits to keep, which bits to try to emulate in the areas I don’t think it works as well, often provides better examples of how to improve the book without losing the author’s voice than I could invent myself.

    And because I want my clients to know that when I point out issues I am not simply nit-picking.

    As an author, I don’t think receiving edits is ever comfortable though. Having both had a case fall apart on me in court and had edits on a story, I would probably choose dodgy cases every time.

      • There’s no rush: publishing is a long game, so a pause to get into a different mindset will probably seem trivial compared to how long one’s book is in the real world.

        And letting one’s initial reaction fade will probably let one remember all the good about the work, so might even save one time when it comes to choosing what to do.

        How long one takes to recover one’s perspective, and whether and what one can do to speed that up will vary from person to person.

        I find remembering all the potential imperfections I noticed in popular fiction published by major publishers helps remind me that what is technically perfect might well be a much higher standard than what readers will love; but I know people who avoid best sellers like the plague just after getting edits because they get fixated on the things that did work.

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