By Alex Segura
It never ends.
That's one thing I’ve realized – even this early in my writing career. Nothing is ever done. Things stop or slow down, but they rarely reach a point of completion where I feel like I wouldn’t change a single comma or period. It just doesn’t happen. The medium doesn’t matter, either – be it a comic script, short story, novel or press release. I never feel like it’s perfect.
That took some getting used to. It’s hard to accept or deal with. But it’s a reality of the life we live as writers. I was tempted to say “the life we’ve chosen,” but that’s not accurate. I didn’t choose this. At certain times - before I was published and before I'd finished anything - I said I “wanted” to be a writer. Now, it’s more that I have to be one. Which is great when the ideas are flowing and I’m sitting down and writing. Not as great when I haven’t put pen to paper in a few days and I’m an absolute chore to be around. It’s not a choice – it’s something we have to do.
So, when writing is something you always think about and feel, it’s hard to let things go. It's hard to let people or scenes or stories go because they take up so much space in our brains and hearts that you want to perfectly translate what’s in your head to the printed page. But we have to let go – otherwise we run the risk of becoming that guy that references that novel he’s going to finish one day.
I’m thinking about all this as I recover from the week-long insanity that is San Diego Comic-Con. It’s an annual marathon I run for my day job and it’s brutal. You’re “on” for almost a week and by the time you get home your brain is jelly and you’ve forgotten most of what happened. But I couldn’t have a jelly brain because I had a giant item on my to-do list I could not ignore: Down the Darkest Street novel revisions.
Down the Darkest Street is the second Pete Fernandez novel, sequel to my debut, Silent City. I think it’s a better book. I hope people will see that, too. It’s definitely a – no pun intended – darker book, and hopefully not the sequel one would expect after reading Silent City. It was and is a harder book to write. Not in the “creative differences” or “challenging” PR spin way. It was harder to write because more stuff is going on, the characters are facing bigger mental, emotional and physical challenges and because second novels – like second albums – are inherently tougher. I think so, at least.
I’ve also had a blast writing it. I don’t want it to end.
I feel like I live in this world, with these characters I know and love and I get bummed out every time I get close to the end of an edit or rewrite because I know it’s not perfect. If I go back, I’ll find a better way to turn a phrase or resolve Plot Thread X or show this character’s true intentions…but at a certain point, you have to let go.
It was really tough sending the book off to my agent, even knowing that at some point – be it another round of notes from her or from the editor or whatever – I will get another chance to tinker. But letting go is part of the writing process and it’s a skill we learn as we do more of it. Knowing when to step back and let things percolate or, if you’re lucky, let things go and become a real, honest-to-God book.
On the bright side, once you’ve let go of one, you can start another. But that’s a story for another time.
How do you know when it’s time to let your WIP go on to the next stage?
I know it's time to let go when the deadline hits. Then, send it off and hope for the best. And, like you said, you get to start another one!
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