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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | The Cycle Repeats (‘Cause That’s What Cycles Do)

The Cycle Repeats (‘Cause That’s What Cycles Do)

Last week, I was feeling a little depressed. I had just turned in editorial revisions for THE  EIGHTH DAY. The manuscript was off to the copy-editing department, and now I had to face my draft of THE EIGHTH DAY #2. And I couldn’t stand to look at it. The first book in the series had been polished and refined (although there are still the copy-editing and proofing stages to go through), and this sequel was looking pretty shaky by comparison.
But then I was struck by a sense of déjà-vu, and I went digging through my blog archives. What I found was THIS post, published almost exactly one year earlier:
Facing the Ugly – posted 6/22/12

Last week, I worked through the copy-edits on THE CAGED GRAVES and mailed the manuscript back to the publisher.  I know there’s still proof-reading to go, but this is one step closer to FINISHED! It was so exciting to see the book worked over to the point where it’s shiny and polished and elegant!

My book looked like this:

But then I had to turn back to my WIP, and it looked like this:

Unformed. Messy. Ugly.

I wanted to hide my face and run away.

It’s hard to remember that THE CAGED GRAVES once looked like that.  In fact, it would be easy to convince myself that it NEVER looked like that and this manuscript I’m working on is a colossal failure.

Anybody who’s been around my blog for awhile knows I’m a pantster. And that I hate first drafts. Outlining doesn’t help. My characters refuse to follow orders.

But I love revision. (Even when I moan and whine about them, I love revisions.)  Because revisions are what turn the Gangers (Doctor Who, Season 6) into Jean Harlow and Clark Gable.

First drafts are allowed to be ugly and unformed. And sometimes one of the hardest things to do is face the ugly and keep working at it, especially after you’ve spent time hanging out with elegance.

Wow, if I needed any more proof that writing stages recycle themselves, here it is. And now I feel a whole lot better. Because guess what? The messy, ugly, I-can-hardly-stand-to-look-at-it manuscript I was talking about in that post was THE EIGHTH DAY, the one I just sent back to my editor like a proud mother hen. I was calling it GRUNSDAY back then. I thought it was for a YA audience, and I wasn’t sure if I was even going to finish it. Now it’s been revised for MG, and it’s the first book in a series for HarperCollins.
So yes, a lot can happen in a year. Also, I feel more confident that the messy manuscript in front of me will also reach that shiny, glamorous stage – probably right around the time I’m looking at Book 3 with disgust!
Do you find that your writing stages are cyclic?

20 Responses to The Cycle Repeats (‘Cause That’s What Cycles Do)

  1. Totally. I hate first drafts. I hate the final edits stage. I’m sick of reading my book 12,000 times just to find that last extra space or missing “t”.

    And once I publish I take a break and then find myself wanting to write another one. It’s definitely cyclical.

  2. Angela Brown says:

    Oh yes, my writing stages are just as cyclical as the changing of seasons. What first starts as a mumbo-jumbo mess that incites my eyes to riot, can be turned into a wonder to read after a bit of revising. And the cycle will begin again with the next MS…and the one that follows it…thus the cycle continues loL!

  3. I am working on my first book and I keep making the mistake of second guessing myself and editing/ rewriting the beginning without finishing because I want it to be perfect the first time around (which is ridiculous). It helps me to read posts like this and and remember that so many authors are going through this same thing. Plus people I know that don’t write are always asking me how far along I am with my book and when will it be done? ack!

  4. Yes, my writing goes through cycles and I’m finding that my motivation is too. Right now I’m struggling to just get the words out in my first draft. And I know where my story goes. Sigh.

  5. Oh my Lord, this is totally me. I can’t stand first drafts – every word I type makes me cringe. Revising is definitely my favorite part of the process, too. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone!!

  6. mshatch says:

    Heheh, yup, it is definitely a cycle and some parts are more fun than others. I’m still on the fence about which part I like best 🙂

  7. Larissa says:

    Haha! So awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Tiana Smith says:

    Ha ha ha! I LOVE this. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone. Whenever I dive into fixing something truly ugly, I always have to remind myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

  9. Gwen Gardner says:

    Wow, I needed this, Dianne. I have so been dreading the edits on my novel#2 because it’s so fugly! This helps 🙂

  10. Mina Burrows says:

    I hate editing. I know about MS draft 1, but what about 2, 3, 4, & 5?

    I think it’s okay for versions to suck but the final can’t. Until then…I edit.

  11. Yes, first drafts are ugly suckers. I like revision too.

  12. Possibly cyclic, but I can understand how some artists say they never look back on their old work. You want true terror? Read (or attempt to read) my first book. *shiver* 🙂

  13. Susan Oloier says:

    I’m glad you were able to pull yourself out of your depressed feelings, Dianne.

  14. Yay for sending THE EIGHTH DAY off to the copy-editors!

    I must say, at this stage, I wish I had your problems…

    Mostly, first drafts terrify me. Once I’ve got a big mess down in a document, then I can patiently start making sense of it in draft 2 and beyond, and continue to revise and revise and revise. I love revision. But filling up that first draft is really hard for me. I might have to start outlining, or at least blueprinting, as Wendy Mass does.

  15. J E Oneil says:

    Wah. That picture of how your WIP looked is creepy. The poor thing must have needed some help.

    I totally think writing is cyclical. Every spring I want to start another story, every fall I want to write another story, but shorter. There are even smaller cycles within the cycles! Good thing the the edit-until-the-WIP-is-polished cycle always comes around again.

  16. I love that. Face the ugly. It’s perfect. I’m still at the research phase with book 2, and waiting for the edits on book 1. But I have a draft–ish– of a previous version of Book 2 that I should be trying to repurpose and incorporate, but it is so ugly I almost can’t bear to open the file. I know I’m going to have to tackle it someday, but somehow, everything seems more attractive, you know, cleaning the garbage disposal, clearing the leaves from the gutters, cleaning bathrooms. I’m in avoidance mode.

  17. Julie Dao says:

    I love this post! I love reading the blogs of authors who write stuff like “I will NEVER get published… I’ve gotten SO many rejections” or “I HATE this draft” and then bam, a month or a year or two later, their book is born. It’s comforting to know that we are not alone and all go through cycles! (And it’s also comforting that published authors also have to do the YA-to-MG switcheroo occasionally 🙂 )I cannot wait to read THE EIGHTH DAY. It sounds exactly right up my alley.

  18. 🙂 Loved this post and the old one! I know your sequel will be super, just like your other books.

  19. Linda G. says:

    Great post! And, yes, I go through cycles, too. It does get easier to cope with the down-on-myself parts now that I recognize they won’t last.

  20. Hi Dianne .. interesting take – and I’m sure all writers follow your route … I’m just pleased you’re having so much success ..

    .. it’ll show others perseverance and you never know what – can turn into something magical ..

    I’m so looking forward to reading Caged Graves ..

    cheers to you and may you have many more messy first drafts ahead of you! Hilary