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gears

February 15, 2009

I honestly thought that spending every day on my own manuscript would be the same as working on a project for a client. After all, I’m typing with the same word processor, using an identical system of creation.

But I feel like I was running in second gear while ghostwriting, and suddenly I’ve shifted myself into fifth without observing the requisite third and fourth gears in transition.

My goal as a ghostwriter was to get my thoughts down on paper as quickly as possible. A chapter could be filled with grammatical errors and plot holes, but I knew I could go back and fix errors once I’d filled several pages in one long stream of writing.

With my own work, on the other hand, I find myself agonizing over single paragraphs and debating over word choice every other sentence.

It’s like I’ve convinced myself if I don’t get it the way I want right now, I’ll eventually have to scrap the whole project and take a job at McDonald’s for the rest of my life.

You might be wondering now if I ever took my clients’ manuscripts seriously, and the answer is yes. I’ve always taken great pride in my work, and I never turned in a manuscript that was less than 100 percent of my capabilities. And yet.

This manuscript, if it ever gets published, will include my name on the cover. Do you know how huge that is? How incredible a feat? I’ve seen my clients’ books published many times over the years, and I always get a rush of elation when my copy arrives in the mail, but this is much different. The idea of seeing my own manuscript in print with my own byline is as terrifying as it is intoxicating.

It seems to me that this shifting of gears is more psychological than it is practical. I could just as easily write my novel with no thought to editing or flow, then go back and make corrections as I see fit. But the idea of leaving one imperfect sentence or one misplaced comma untouched fills me with anxiety and I have to correct it right away.

Does this mean that my manuscript will be in perfect condition upon completion? I seriously doubt it. Even now, as I read over Chapter One, I see not necessarily mistakes, but areas that could benefit from some tweaking. I will always believe that writing is a process that must evolve over time.

Do you prefer to edit as you go or do you just get your thoughts down on paper to be revised later? I want to know.

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