Friday, March 29, 2019

"Start over" does not mean "you failed"

I've told two recent queriers "this doesn't work, here's why, start over."

I can't begin to imagine how that feels on the other side of the computer screen, but I bet not good doesn't begin to cover it.

When you're a new writer it's hard to believe that "start over" does NOT mean "you suck."
It does not.

When you're an experienced writer, it's hard to remember that "start over" does NOT mean "you failed."
It does not.

When you're published with countless revisions under your belt, it's an effort to remember that "start over" isn't a sign you're losing your abilities.
It is not.

Start over means you figured out something that doesn't work.

Start over means we now have a better idea of where the story really begins, and need to revise from the top.

Start over means it's worth working on.

But, time elapsing between hearing start over and remembering what it means is pretty long the newer you are at writing. Years sometimes.

It's never minutes, or hours and most often it's more than a day.

So when you hear "start over", rush to EBay, buy a shark voodoo doll, a large quantity of extra sharp pins, and a case of hooch. Apply as needed.

But, after a day, remember you and your novel are not failures.
You're just not street ready yet.

Get back under the hood, here's a wrench, it looks like your flux capacitor needs patching up. I have just what you need right here:

Results from yesterday's flash semi-fiction contest will be posted Saturday 3/30


Kitty said...

Getting any kind of reply, even "start over," is much better than nothing. No reply is the worst.

AJ Blythe said...

Oh my gosh, I need those bandaids for the Hub.

One of my mottos (which I've said here before) is a quote from the movie Galaxy Quest: Never give up! Never surrender!

I won't give up. Start over, in whatever iteration it is given, is just another rung on the ladder to publication. The hardest thing for me is finding the time to do it.

I also want to say how wonderful yesterday's semi-fiction contest was. It was heaps of fun reading everyone's entries and once again made me realise what a wonderfully diverse and talented bunch hang at the Reef. You guys rock.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Start over.
You are there.

This is one sweet tune I am humming from now on.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Starting over is a better proposition than putting a so-so book out there. And start over instead of silence I would guess means you have something. It is not quite the right something. Yet.

It is worth the journey. I have started over so many times at so many things. It always feels like pushing a pile of rubble off of me, like I've had my entire life bombed out. However, staying put when starting over is what you need to do, in anything, is stagnation. And that, to me, is a fate worse than death.

None of that probably made any sense. No sleep. Need coffee. Who took my coffee? Where is the coffee? My co-workers are not funny.

Will you guys bail me out in about an hour or so? I lose all control when denied coffee.

Aphra Pell said...

I quite like starting over. It means rather than struggling with the bits don't gel, I can unleash characters I like into having adventures all over again.

In not entirely unrelated news, I forgot to enter the bio comp because I was recreating a medieval garderobe chute out of cardboard and persuading my husband to wriggle through it. I now have a whole new plan for tormenting my antagonist (who probably isn't keen on the starting over right now).

*My husband's bio say "definite keeper"

Timothy Lowe said...

Every misstep is a step towards your goal. My latest (and best) manuscripts have a 'dead letter file' that is as long as the book itself. Remember what Margaret Atwood said about the trash bin.

Yes, easier said than done, for all of us no matter what stage of the journey.

Inspiring words on a Friday.

Anonymous said...

This is another great post. That's why I love this blog.

To paraphrase Hebrews 4:15,

"We do not have a Shark who is unable to sympathize with our meltdowns, but we have one who has been discouraged in every way, just as we are, yet without giving up."

Donnaeve said...

Doggone it. I have missed so MUCH this week! I felt the heat off that one post where QOTKU took to task those who'd queried her. To be honest, I get twitchy when asked questions that are right up under EVERYONE'S NOSE thanks to the internet.

And the bio thing - I remember, Janet, that botched name you used for InkStainedWench - but I thought you called her InkStainedWrench. Or maybe that was me.

Anyhoo! I have LOL'ed my way through some of the bios - eight-two! Couldn't do them all - but Hank's was one I definitely snort laughed over.

Happy weekend y'all.

Janet Reid said...

The Ink Stained Wrench is for use on the flux capacitor of course!
How could I forget!

julie.weathers said...

When I was trying to slam my back door during the last ice age, otherwise known as winter here, the door went sideways breaking off the hinge. So also did my hand which wound up between the door and the jamb.

I burned through my supply of gauze pads and surgical tape as it ripped two fingers up badly. I always stay well stocked up on this stuff. Then I went to the large bandaids and finally down to using numerous ones on each finger. The cloth ones were nice except they frayed, driving me a bit bonkers as I had to trim them all the time to not be distracted. Then I tried my Christmas Story bandaids. They were terrible. Cute, but terrible. They were so stiff I could barely bend my fingers. I chunked them.

I might try bacon bandaids. Who could resist?

As for starting over, that sends me into a tail spin when I have to do that. After I finish crying, I go work on something else and let the boys in the back think about it. While I'm working on a new project, they figure out what the problem is and come up with a solution.

This method wouldn't work if I were under contract and deadline, but I'm not, so I'm not going to worry about it. Worrying about something that might happen tomorrow is like worrying about a moth. I've decided not to turn my life into a Japanese movie.

Kitty said...

Check out the Shark bandages.

Sherry Howard said...

Ouch, Julie!

I’d so much rather have start over than stark silence!

Craig F said...

I have a standup paddleboard failure I keep in a prominent place to remind of how close together failure and a win are. Starting over also means that you started in the first place, completed something and took it for a spin. That is a big win, in its own right.

I doubt I will try the bacon bandage. I might wake up with a gnawed off finger, then there are the cats,

Hope the spelling is close. Just had the eyes dilated and can't see squat.

If'n I don't see y'all here tomorrow, have a mahvelous weekend.

John Davis Frain said...


Who needs a free toy inside when there're bacon bandages inside?!

That posed such a challenge for the marketing team, they threw up their arms in surrender because, how do you top bacon bandages?

Barbara Etlin said...

What's the free toy inside?

Claire Bobrow said...

I’m guessing the free toy inside is a miniature cast iron skillet. If you’re not tending wounds, you can pretend to cook bacon.

Mary said...

I recently pulled my ms back from my agent to look it over. sux. So I'm starting over.

MA Hudson said...

Nothing’s a failure if you keep going, learning from each experience and applying it to the next project.

Rena said...

I've fallen behind on these posts and a friend sent this to me today. A year and a half ago I signed my second two-book deal with Putnam. This week I sent an outline to my editor for the third iteration of the book, which I am once again starting from scratch. I've written 250,000 words that just weren't right.

I've said more than once to friends that I've lost my mojo and forgotten how to write.

"When you're published with countless revisions under your belt, it's an effort to remember that "start over" isn't a sign you're losing your abilities.
It is not."

I am going to have these words printed on a poster to hang above my desk. Then I'm going to take a deep breath, summon my inner voices, and get to work. Thank you for this.