Feel the Burn
March 24, 2007
Before I felt the burn, I felt the dream.
I’m one of those writers who’s “known” since third grade that I was going to write Christian fiction. That’s what God wanted me to do so it was going to happen.
Then I started writing.
Eventually I overheard myself repeating something as I wrote. “This scene is good, not quite like a published novel, but I’m tired. I’ll fix it next time around.”
After three or four rewrites like this, I realized my book had hit a ceiling. It wasn’t enough to have the dream or the call. I had to do the work. But how?
I eavesdropped on myself during the rewrite, waiting for that nasty procrastinator to appear. Didn’t take long. But this time I hijacked it.
Nope, I told it. Your little editing brain is staying right here in this scene, and we are SO not leaving till this reads like a published novel!
I was in chapter one for three weeks.
By the end, I was exhausted. I had studied what I’d written and analyzed what didn’t work, why it didn’t work, and what I needed to do to make it work. I grit my teeth and kept writing when scrubbing the bathroom floor sounded like crazy fun.
When I finished, I moved on to chapter two. Spent one week there.
Then chapter three. Another three weeks.
At this point, I was frustrated. So I was emerging with something far better than anything I’d ever written, but writing this way would take forever. Was this what real writing was like?
I kept going, and somehow my rewrites began to take less time. Chapters four and five flew past in less than a week. Chapter six a few days, chapter seven a day. I began to worry. Had I subconsciously reverted to procastinating?
As I read my finished chapters, I realized what had happened. I’d pushed through the burn of excercising new writing muscles.
I’d become a stronger writer.
In the past I had always stopped when the writing got hard, and so I’d plateaued. By forcing myself to stay with a scene until it worked on every level, I’d excercised writing muscles I never knew I had and in the process learned a whole lot about the novel.
And because I continued to push myself, being business-like about my words, the writing became easier. Not easy, of course, but easier because those muscles that had ached with their first use were now in shape. I could identify quickly what was wrong with my writing and how I should fix it. I could move faster through a manuscript and find behind me polished writing that breathed.
Where are you at in your writing? Have you felt the burn? Have you pushed through a scene until you learned some technique, understood a writing element, and left with your story ready for the world?
Don’t be satisfied with this round of rewrites. Push on. Feel the burn. And watch your writing muscles grow.