I’ve never written drafts – that’s just never been my mindset. All my essays, research reports, short stories: one draft. A brief grammar check. And then it’s done, and I’ve never gotten a poor grade this way – but now when it comes to actually writing a novel, I find it’s causing me no end of trouble.
First of all, I cannot for the life of me move forward to the next chapter/scene/paragraph until the previous one is perfect. The grammar, the wording, exactly who says what and when, all of it. Part of that might be because I’m trying to post stuff chapter by chapter on a fiction site (quotev.com) as an incentive to keep me going and in order to get at least some form of feedback from someone. And then, too, there’s very little plan to the plot, as things just sort of proceed from one state to the next like straight-ahead animation. (My strengths are not usually plot-based, but more theme- and character-oriented, just exploring how the various characters interact with one another and with the environment. I’m good at slice of life, but I don’t just want to be stuck there.)
And I simply can’t imagine how all those editing passes work. I don’t understand how you can just go back into your story after it’s written, and…change everything. It should be perfect the first time, to the point that if an editor handed it back to me and said it wasn’t good enough, I would probably fall apart and throw the whole thing away, because if I couldn’t get across the story at its best then, I’ll never be able to. I know I need to break out of this mindset – but how? I’ve never done revision before. I don’t know how to. I’m scared.
This leads to my second question: where do I get help? I can’t afford a real editor – I’m only a college student. There’s no one I can pay to look over my first draft, certainly, even if I ever finish it. The online fiction-publishing communities, I’m sorry to say, are full of pretty awful writers (It’s not their fault, of course – most of them are only about fourteen), and there’s no one in my life I can turn to, either. I’m a STEM major (CompSci, basically because I’d love to write video games and I wanted a BS-degree) so most of the people around me are STEM majors too – i.e. completely useless when it comes to creative writing – and they’re not really my friends anyway, since I have a bad habit of convincing myself that no one wants to hear what I have to say or wants me around in general.
But now I don’t know where to turn. I’m alone with no guidance and no idea of how to write and revise like a real author. I do think I’m a good writer myself, and whatever little feedback I do get seems to corroborate that. But I’ll never get anything published if I can’t find some help, because I’m paralyzed with fear and confusion and it’s stopping me from even getting to chapter 3.
(Let’s face it, I’ll never get anything published anyway – but I’ll regret it forever if I don’t try.)