From “1 Mississippi” (Used For Cover)
A friend kindly wrote that he liked my novel-writing posts. Since it is also very nice for me to have an excuse to kvetch, I will burden you with another.
Some of you may be wondering why I am finally now focusing on one of the old manuscripts that has been kicking around (make that, laying comatosely in) my closet for years, Especially since periodically over the life of this blog, I have threatened (promised) to go back to one of these novels and haven’t.
The truth is that I’ve succombed to the power of a deadline. In this case, the deadline has been the submission date for the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
Believe me, I have no illusions about the possibility of my winning, or even placing or showing in, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (called the “ABNA”).
This is partly because I’ve entered the ABNA a few times already, possibly even with a rougher version of this same novel, which due to its subject matter (kind of grim), writing style (would-be literary) and pace (not action) is not in any way likely to even make the semi-finals.
Nonetheless, a deadline, if one can convince one’s self to believe in it, has great power.
In my case, what this deadline did was make me take a practical look at my nearly comatose–make that anxious-to-start-kicking–manuscripts, and decide which one could most easily be made acceptably publishable in a few weeks time.
The deadline then also has gotten me working on the improvement/revision of that chosen manuscript.
Unfortunately, however, I am someone who is about as self-defeating as ambitious. (I calculate that my personality holds one part self-sabotage for every one-and-a-half parts grandiosity.)
(Okay, okay, how about one part self-sabotage for every part self-disciplined?)
The self-defeating components make it very difficult for me to buckle down to any truly systematic, effective, eye-on-the-likely-audience revision process–a process that would involve, for example, reading the book aloud or at least on the printed page.
Instead, I have found myself endlessly rereading the manuscript on the computer and iPad–yes, I know, this is bad bad bad–making little edits here and there–oh, and back there again–checking one narrative thread for repetition, another one for gaps, gently rearranging scenes.
But still missing, I am sure, loads of errors, and worse, boring run-on paragaphs—to the point, that I will sometimes read a section with something approaching shock–that, after all this time–it is still so awkward. Or even lacking a period at the end of a sentence.
The self-sabotaging aspects of myself have also made it very hard for me to focus on certain ancillary efforts that actually matter in the ABNA contest. For example, the “pitch.” This is a three hundred word invite into your novel–a sales pitch, as it were–a blurb–that will be the sole basis of the first round of judging.
I hate sales pitches.
I hate them so much I don’t even allow myself to learn how to post pictures of the covers of the books I’ve already published on the side bar of this blog. (And I love my past book covers.)
So, what do you do when you are one part self-sabotaging and one part self-disciplined?
Whatever you can manage.
P.S. in honor of sales pitches and loving my past book covers, I am posting the painting that was used in the cover of my book “1 Mississippi” above (painted by me–I can’t seem to find a good photo of the cover) and below, the covers of my book “Going on Somewhere” (painting by Jason Martin) and “Nose Dive” (painting by Jonathan Segal) below.
PPS in honor of self-sabotage and hating sales pitches, I will not post the links to purchase details for any of those books.