Daily Words: Didn’t I Finish a Novel Eight Months Ago?

Daukherville Cover Art

Daukherville Cover Art

You know the one. The one that took me forever to write. The one I (sort of) finished in a cabin in the Maine woods last summer.

Yeah, so … where is it?

Funny you should ask. I’ve come here to confess and publicly shame myself. I’ve come here to admit that when it comes to editing, I am nothing but useless.

And it needs to stop.

I told myself I needed to take a break. And so I did. I told myself I needed to write something else, and so out came Ed at Eleven, which itself is another novel I don’t know how to edit. After that, I told myself I could take a break, kick back, I’d written two novels in one year. Time for some video games! I told myself maybe it was time to focus on some short stories, so I wrote a few more first drafts–with a lot of days in between where I wrote nothing. Gone are the days of 500 words a day.

When I think about Daukherville, I think about an idea that I screwed up. I think about characters I don’t fully understand, even after spending fifteen years with them (actually, very soon it’s going to be sixteen years since I wrote the very first incarnation of the story that had become Daukherville). This fucking book is about to graduate high school, for crying out loud!

What am I afraid of? That’s easy: I’m afraid this is one of those Obsession Projects. You know the ones–the projects where the writer puts way too much pressure on the thing to be the Grand Work. In my case, Daukherville is supposed to be my Great American Horror Novel. But it’s depressing, because I know that the book I wrote in one month is actually better than the book that took me fifteen years. Daukherville smells of too much sweat.

But it can’t end like that. I refuse to let this book that I have loved and dreamed about for so freaking long end its life as the setup for a stupid joke about the writer who tried too hard and failed. I care about this story. I care about getting it right. And it’s big and it’s intimidating and it’s complicated, but the job is to make it work.

So, these days, I’m trying to look at it. To think about. To ease off on the pressure. It is one of the stories I am going to write in my life; it is not the story I am going to write. This website itself is full of other ideas. Ideas I like. Things that were fun to write.

This is not fun. This is hard, and it is really scary being here and not knowing if the book’s ever going to be something I’m proud of …

2 comments
  1. A Pea said:

    You can do hard things! Maybe with the help of some patio furniture….

  2. Elie said:

    “I care about this story. I care about getting it right.”

    I wonder if that’s your problem right there. Increasingly, I’m trying not to write things I care passionately about, at least not all once or not directly. When you care, you’re kind of too close to it. You lose perspective. You start to say things like there’s a “right” way to talk about something and a “wrong” way.

    Maybe find one *part* of the story you care about more than anything else, make sure that’s right, and learn to not care about the other stuff.

    I dunno, letting go of what you fear to lose seemed to work out okay for Yoda. Not that it was the best advice for Anakin.

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