I used to laugh at some writers who’d never finish their work, but my own writing process is evolving in that direction, if unchecked…
I’ve been sick. In fact, I still am. I’m writing these words rather than editing my latest novel Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm. After first catching this season’s flu, I ended up with a sinus infection the likes even I hadn’t seen before with a ruptured eardrum as a souvenir. I’m seeing a specialist today to have a look at it. Lying around for almost two weeks, with no energy to write or edit, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my work, my writing and how (and what) I’d like to change, without actually being able to change any of it. As part of that, I realized just how my own writing process continually develops (?), evolves and changes.
Evolving or developing?
I have no final answer. I’m not sure if the changes are for the better. I recall talking to more than one of my fellow writers out there, people who had been working on one and the same story for years, some decades even, but they’d never published any of their work, constantly changing, editing, rewriting, adding, subtracting from their work. The fear of failure debilitating, or is it the strive for perfection? I’m not sure.
After having written Disease, I know I had done something special. The reviews were raving, and even though it’s not a continuous bestseller, the book has done well for its kind, and I am particularly happy with all the praise. Kirkus reviews even included their review of the book in last Friday’s bi-weekly magazine to libraries and other professionals, and I’ve already seen a spike in sales on Amazon.
All the while, my own writing is changing. I’m not sure if it’s a change for the better, an evolution, or if I’m starting to become obsessed with quality if the fear of following up a great story with something of lesser quality is scaring me? Debilitatingly so?
Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is very different from Disease
The new story is very different from Disease. Where the latter was dark and hopeful, with an almost given ending, considering that Alzheimer’s only has one known outcome, it was difficult for Her Majesty to strike a balance and keep things hopeful. I think I managed, to the best of my ability.
The story about Martin is different. Very different. And as so often with my writing, I might mention The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, the initial story changed into something else. In this case, it was my research trip to Korea which pre-empted the changes. I’ve mentioned those before. Returning to the Land of the Morning Calm is a much more light-hearted story, full of love, friendship, romance and hope. It is that without shying away from difficult topics, such as gay darlings like “coming out”, homophobia, HIV, but also racial issues, #MeToo, love and relationships across time, cultures and generations.
There is so much I still want to tweak…
Here’s the thing though: while I’m generally happy with the story, and the way it’s developing, there are still a million things (or so it seems at night) I want to change. Tighten a screw here, change something here etc. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about the quality of the story if I’m doing the characters justice. Does Martin come across as the octogenarian he is? Is Ji-Hoon Korean enough? I currently have a friend in Korea reading the manuscript to make sure the Korean aspects are ‘real’ Korean. But it doesn’t just end there, and all of a sudden I find myself with a newfound understanding for those neverending writers out there, who keep polishing their manuscripts… Luckily, I have a deadline, so I know I’ll have to finish sooner rather than later.
A changing writing process is a good thing, isn’t it?
I comfort myself with the fact that it must be a good thing for my writing process to keep changing. It means I listen to my editors, take their advice to heart. It means I strive to better myself. Or am I simply paranoid? Or have I been “off” my game for too long and just worry, needlessly? One thing’s for sure: time will tell, and by May 21, when the new book is out, I’ll know if my stupid comparing of apples and pairs has resulted in anything…
Before I let you go, a quick question to my fellow authors: do you see your own writing process change or are you pretty much easy going? Curious to learn…
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