The M&M Brick Wall
A new type of writer's block
When I began this rewrite of an entire series of 11 books, I did so for its betterment. I hadn't realized the difficulty I would encounter. I truly hadn't.
When I wrote Restraint back in 2012, I was naive- ignorant, if you will -and I'm not ashamed to admit it. While it's wonderful to see such growth, it's a complete and total nuisance in the present. Restraint wasn't my first work. But since its predecessors never saw the light of day, they didn't necessarily teach me anything.
Truthfully, I don't feel as if I was actually learning my craft until after Integrated was published. I took a step back and evaluated the quality of my work. Not just the editing, formatting, and overall professional polish of the product, but the writing itself.
It took me a handful of weeks to write Restraint, but it took me almost 5 months to rewrite it. I found it so much more difficult to rewrite a book than to write it from scratch. I encountered obstacle after obstacle. My naivety was coming back to haunt me. While I could draft a better sentence, edit and format to create a semi-professional appearing novel, my hands were tied on the plot.
I want to confess, if I wasn't fighting the 10 books released after Restraint, I would have deleted the entire manuscript. I may not have even developed the story at all. It was written by a writer who didn't know how to write. It was told by a storyteller who hadn't come into her own yet. & the writer I am today, the storyteller I am today, had to deal with the consequences.
With that saying, I believe in the story and the universe I created, or else I wouldn't be trying to fix what I can. I feel a deep connection and affection for each and every single one of them. I have stories upon stories to tell, as their voices never cease to communicate with me. The characters of M&M are not old friends, they are essentially a part of me.
While there are threads in the foundation of the series I would have written differently, or not at all, I'm doing my best to slowly tweak it over several books. This is most difficult when reading past and present reviews (I really shouldn't do that) because they note the things that I wish I could change but I cannot. It is so frustrating. I have to grit my teeth to stop myself from saying anything. I have to do everything in my power not to spiral down into a self-defeatist attitude where I punish myself for my lack of knowledge over 3 years ago.
New readers reading the Restraint of today may be turned off by those same issues that are plaguing me as I rewrite the series. But I cannot help that. I take full culpability for every reader I lose, and I appreciate every reader who becomes a fan. The only comfort I can take away from this experience is that at least they are reading Today's Restraint, not the Restraint of the past. At least it makes more sense than it originally did, and it's not riddled with errors, shit writing, and plot holes so large you could sink into them, never to escape.
Yes, Restraint is too wordy, but I forgive Katya as she is a book publisher. We lovers of the written word don't know when to shut up, even in our private thoughts- especially in our private thoughts. Yes, Katya has an endless stream of cognitive thought. Yes, I had to do that in order for the reader to understand her actions and reactions, as how else was I to write why she was doing and saying what she was? Still to this day, I am baffled at how else to write that.
Restraint was the foundation, so the issues I have with it, the very issues readers take with it, had to be that way for two reasons. One: my hands were tied. (I hate admitting defeat and a sense of powerlessness) Somethings, no matter how badly I wished, I couldn't change them, because to fix it was to ruin what made the series what it is. Two: the book would have felt incomplete if the reader had to guess the entire time. Which also made a good canvas for Unleashed, as Katya's inner monologue is at the bare minimum. We know Katya, so we can accurately predict her actions and reactions, so therefore I didn't have to write it at all. (Thank goodness for that!)
So this issue leaves me to where I am currently stuck. I have approximately 1/3rd left to rewrite of Unleashed, and I really enjoyed rewriting the first 2/3rds. I thought it flowed well, made sense, and with just a few minor tweaks in every scene, as well as restructuring every single sentence, I am proud of the result. But the last 1/3rd is a complication.
On the rewrite, I finally know my characters inside and out after writing them for 12 books. I have information I didn't have 3 years ago when I didn't know shit about anything. So the characters in Unleashed do not read like the characters of Integrated & Hero, or the newly rewritten Restraint. The last 1/3rd of Unleashed, the actions and reactions of the entire cast of characters do NOT read like them.
In this, my hands are not tied. I refuse to be beholden to this for the entirety of the series. Whether old readers reread to eliminate the confusion is up to them, but I cannot chance turning away new readers, destroying any future I have as a writer by leaving well-enough alone... because it's not well enough for the Erica Chilson of today.
I read a scene yesterday that I previously loved, even three months ago, & I highlighted the entire thing and pressed delete. To say I felt sick is an understatement. I refused to have that work attached to my name, which is why I feel sick with grief.
It's a loss. It's a death. It destroys my confidence as a writer. But after I pull myself back up, which takes some time to feel alive again, I feel the results are a 1000 times better. Then I have my confidence until I hit another brick wall where my hands are tied. (I kick myself in the ass multiple times a day, metaphorically speaking)
I'm now at a precipice, having to reevaluate every scene in the last part of Unleashed. But in doing so, I have to determine how it affects the 12 books to follow between Unleashed and Empowered. Even the most minor of tweaks has to be carried through the entire series to avoid contradiction.
I have list of a dozen things I have to change, major plot points, in the last 125 pages of Unleashed. I've rewritten new chapters from scratch, only to delete thousands of words, and then I do it all over again- including the deleting.
Flashes of insight keep happening. "Do this instead, Erica!" & then I see how it works so much better, how it ties it all together or removes the issue.
Trudging forward at a fast pace makes it so I am not receptive to these flashes of insight that make a book a better reading experience. & I fear the regret I will feel once I've finished a book to only have a flash of insight I will never be able to put in use.
Right now, I am operating on fear, regret, shame, & a self-defeatist attitude. All the while, I'm trying to maintain a positive outlook because I've grown exponentially in my craft over the past few years. But new readers reading Restraint won't know how much I've grown if they don't give the next book a chance, because I couldn't show that growth in Restraint. Not really. I call my rewrite of Restraint a band-aid. I will forever regret it, and there is absolutely nothing I can do to change that fact.
This is the part of me who wishes she wasn't in charge, who wishes someone would step in and tell her what to do... but I am the one in charge, and only I can make these decisions.
Yes, I realize there is major emotional fallout for someone who spends their time inside their imaginations versus reality. Yes, I realize all of my doubts and fears are self-created, yet I'm not able to push how I feel to the wayside. Yes, I know no book will ever please everyone. I am utterly thankful when one person connects to my writing, sees it as it was meant to be seen.
But right now, the pressure is suffocating me, and it's a very real thing. The pressure to rewrite these books, not only so I can give the readers something new so they won't forget me, not only so I have a backlist of titles for sale since this decision has left no money trickling into my bank account, but so I can write something new.
Creation is at the very core of me, and this tedium is murdering my muse. Rewriting ruined prose while wearing the hats of an editor, graphics designer, publisher, and promoter is not exactly conducive to the creative process. It's draining me of life. (I'm not complaining, or making excuses, for I know I deserve this hell I've descended. I'm explaining where these emotions are emanating)
If you are a writer, you will understand to a certain extent. Even after writing and publishing a book, when everyone assumes you are ecstatic, a cloaking type of depression descends- one that is only combated by writing another book, where you subject yourself to this lunacy all over again. (However, I cannot write another book, as I have to continually rewrite what I had previously destroyed)
For my readers, I'm not asking for attention, or pats on the back, or for you to kiss my ass and tell me anything negative is because they don't 'get' me. I'm simply trying to impart the impact of not only writing a book but how living it can be on the writer. The more real the characters feel to the reader is in direct correlation to how much the author felt of them while writing the book. The larger the cast of characters, the more insane the author feels.
What I really need is for this pressure to be removed. I want to start from scratch, to write a new book with a minuscule cast of characters who haven't been created yet, with stories that need to be told, and I want to do it as someone other than myself.
Delve into the mind of madness