Several months ago, I was on the phone with an old friend from graduate school who is also a writer friend, and she had just viewed a TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert. "Watch it," she urged. "She's wise and compassionate, and I think she's got something you need to hear."
This was at a point where I had been working on revisions for my novel for years. Literally, years. It's called A Lady in the Smoke now; but before that it was The Viscount's Daughter. Before that, it was The Golden Kestral. Before that it was a work in progress that I nicknamed The Trainwreck Novel, and before that it was simply my trainwreck of a novel. Does that give you an idea of how much it changed over the past four years since I first started sending it to agents? Here are some other signs: it used to be a YA novel. Now it's an historical mystery. The heroine Elizabeth used to be 17. Now she's 20. She used to be daughter of a Marquess; now she's the daughter of a Viscount. The trainwreck used to happen in chapter 7. Now it happens at the end of chapter 1. (Sorry ... I suppose that's a bit of a spoiler.) And while I know that every novel goes through changes, mine had been accepted not only by an agent but by a publisher! And I was still making some fairly substantial changes--adding a scene, dropping a chapter, nuancing the villainy, killing off another character. (Kudos, by the way, to my astonishingly patient and brilliant editor, Priyanka Krishnan, who has steered me well through these waters.)
My friend Stefanie was right, though. Elizabeth Gilbert had something I needed to hear at this point in my revisions. At one point in her TED Talk, she says that she loves writing more than she hates failing at writing. And that resonated with me. My sloppy desk with scraps of paper is where I writefully live. I would rather be revising and revising and revising again, coming face-to-face with my clumsy failures and trying to fix them, than doing any other kind of work.
I intend this blog to be a trace of my work, a trace of my learning; and I hope that other writers--particularly those who are mulling over the idea of beginning a book--will find some value in what I've learned so far.
Karen Odden is the author of bestselling novels A Lady in the Smoke and A Dangerous Duet. Her forthcoming novel, A Trace of Deceit, is available December 17, 2019.