Doing the Stupid Book Over (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)
I'm staring down the barrel of a do-over, and I'm scared to death.
Let me give you a little peek into the past year of my writing life. I'm not proud of it, and I would like to tell you once and for all that it's not the baby's fault. (I get this a lot. Oh, Courtney. I know you're busy with the baby, but please write another book when you get a chance. Do people say this to other people with jobs? Oh, I know you're busy with the baby, but please deliver the mail when you get a chance. Please perform open heart surgery when you get a chance. Please teach my child when you get a chance. I know people are trying to be nice. It just makes me feel like they don't take what I do seriously if I should only do it "when I get a chance.")
The thing is, I did write another book. And then I wrote it again. And then I shelved it because it seemed like I was never going to get it right and maybe it was a dumb idea anyway and probably it wouldn't sell. It's one of those. I wrote the first lines of this stupid book three years ago.
By this time last year, I had accumulated three rejections (I know, that's not a lot), all of which were saying the same thing, so I figured there might be something to it and maybe I should stop submitting and fix it.
So last February, I overhauled the book and turned it into an entirely new book, which really really really sucked, and not just because it was a first draft.
And then I quit.
I decided I would just start on a new book, maybe a companion to The Last Sister, not because that's what I wanted to write but because I figured maybe people would like it and I could get it published. I know, how noble of me.
But in the research for that, I stumbled on a new story I wanted to tell. So for Spring and Summer and Fall, I researched that and now is the Winter of our discontent because I can't for the life of me figure out how to write it.
Meanwhile, I did other writing. I did my work-for-hire, which is satisfying because I get to make my own hours and use all my degrees and make a little money, and really, can one ask for more in this current economic climate? I wrote an essay about the first dog of my adult life, Hildy, which is included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog coming out in February. I wrote a Christmas short story featuring two of the characters from The Last Sister, which you can get for free here. I read close to seventy books, which I know because I kept track because I wanted to rub it in the faces of all the people who said I wouldn't have time to read once I had a baby. (Threaten my reading and writing, and I get mean really fast. Because I get scared and being scared makes me mean and in case it's not clear by now, I scare easy.)
But I didn't write novels. Because I was scared I would fail. I was scared whatever I wrote would be a waste of time. I was scared I would accidentally somehow offend people and scared that one wrong move would end my career. I was scared of the market, scared there's really no place for me in it.
Last weekend, I was grumbling about how I still didn't know how to write this next book I've been ruminating on since last spring, slamming utensils into drawers as I unloaded the dishwasher.
"Nothing is right," I grumbled. "Nothing feels right when I'm not writing, and I don't know what to do."
"Maybe you should go back to [Stupid Book]," said my husband. "I think that's what you want to work on. Maybe that's why you're not getting anywhere with anything else."
"I have it on my iPad for rereading," I growled."But it's stupid and there's nothing special about it and it won't get published."
"Well, make it not stupid," he said. Oh-so-helpfully. (This is really how his mind works.)
So I guess I am giving Stupid Book a do-over this February, too. The first step is rereading both the original Stupid Book and Stupid Book Round 2.
I am terrified of opening that file and reading it, but maybe there's enough distance between us now and maybe it's not as bad as I think. Ha. It totally is. But I'm going to read it anyway, and maybe something good will come of it.
Encouragement appreciated because, again, I'm scared to death.