lorettapolaski's picture
lorettapolaski from Indiana is reading The Honest Spy November 27, 2017 - 4:07pm

Hello, Writers. My name is Loretta. I attend the Midwest Writers Workshop every summer in Indiana. This past summer, I showed my manuscript (first three chapters) to a publisher for a critique and she actually liked it so much she wants to read the whole manuscript for possible publication. Well, go me! BUT...I didn't have the first draft done. So I came home and banged out my first draft running on adrenalin. Started second draft early October and whoa, what a surprise! It's freaking hard!!!!! I'm short on description, heavy on dialogue. I've been reading articles, books, anything I can to get myself motivated to work on this. I went through the first half okay but I'm on the second half and floundering. And the first half still needs a lot of work. I think I did more 'editing' than anything and I still have a lot of stuff I need to write. DETAILS!

So, if anyone has some valuable pearls of wisdom, please thrown them my way. I'm avoiding my book like a root canal and it's becoming a problem! I haven't spent any real quality time on it in three weeks whereas on my first draft, I was losing sleep because I was writing so much. My draft is right at 50k. Like I said, I have a lot left to write. My second draft, thus far, hasn't increased my word count. I have improved on the content but cut a lot of crap and redundancies so I'm not getting my word count up. 

I don't know why I lost my steam. 



helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman November 27, 2017 - 6:36pm


About a week ago, one of the magazine writers shared an awesome column about this. I thought it was pretty helpful: https://litreactor.com/columns/storm-the-brain-15-methods-to-get-unstuck-prompt-ideas-and-solve-problems

I had a standing, read-aloud Skype appointment with a mentor every two weeks for a couple years. They were super-productive. If I showed up having done nothing, it was a waste of time, both his and mine (and money). I'd highly recommend you set up something like that. Set up a bi-weekly appointment with someone, pay them $25 to listen for an hour, and read what you've got since last time. Shoot for 15-20 polished pages for every 2 weeks. The person doesn't have to be a writer. Just someone who is willing to listen, provide a little basic feedback, and be someone you're accountable to. If you've got a writer friend, set up a reciprocal thing, every other week with them. If you don't, a non-writer friend is good. Meet somewhere, have a drink, buy them a drink, had over $25, and spend the hour together.

I think it's about making yourself accountable, and I think the money is important. Have some skin in the game. Know in the back of your head that if you meet up with this person and it's no good, you've wasted $25.

Less concrete, I'd advise that you stop worrying about the first half. There's always going to be improvement, but get that second half in the can. My mentor had this saying: You have to shit out the coal before you can turn it into a diamond. Get that coal out, then start refining it.  

Bellbird's picture
Bellbird from Virginia, USA is reading On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous November 28, 2017 - 2:07pm

Hi Loretta,

The LitReactor column helpfulsnowman has referred you to is excellent! 

Just click on the "Magazine" tab and you'll see "Storm the Brain" among the Editor's Picks - second from the top I think. 

Congrats on that very nice recognition from the publisher who wants to see your ms. Best of luck with your revision.



lorettapolaski's picture
lorettapolaski from Indiana is reading The Honest Spy December 1, 2017 - 3:48am

Thank you, Snowman and Bellbird for your helpful replies! Heading over to read the article now!

MattF's picture
MattF from Tokyo is reading Borges' Collected Fictions December 1, 2017 - 8:22am

You banged out your first draft running on adrenalin. I'm guessing you hadn't banged out your first three chapters (which the interested publisher actually read) running on adrenalin. 

Don't be impatient. Don't abandon your process from excitement/ambition.

The answer may be throwing away your draft and starting again at chapter four (and I don't think that draft will be wasted--it's part of the interior process). I promise you the publisher would rather wait and see your best effort than receive something disappointing tomorrow. They receive disappointing manuscripts every day. Take your time and give them something great.

My advice would be to give the potential publisher honest progress reports, and do your best work, no matter how long it takes. 

lorettapolaski's picture
lorettapolaski from Indiana is reading The Honest Spy December 11, 2017 - 12:40pm

Hi Matt. You are right, those first three chapters got a lot of attention before my evaluation. I've been working on the book for two years. I focused on those three chapters for a couple of months alone, refining them to be the very best they could be. I had been plodding along, playing around with the story, writing here and there. When I got such a positive review and an opportunity to move forward, I came home and finished the first draft in three months. There are some good chapters but there are some really lame chapters. And I agree with you. I may just need to throw out those lame chapters and rewrite them. 

Trying to pinpoint the problem is difficult but essentially, I think it comes down to that I am writing an anti-hero and sometimes it's just really hard to get into her head. She's a sociopath and I'm not. So, I find myself having to rewrite things often because the things I would do or how I would react are not how she would react.

Yes, I need to chill and not send her anything less than the very best I have to offer, no matter how long it takes. I'm also stressed because I was told she would expect to have another book ready in a year. WTH??? Lol! I feel like my time spent doing this is a test! More pressure.

Thanks so much for your encouragement! 


Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal December 7, 2017 - 8:42pm

Wait, is the story done start-to-finish-wise? If so... why not leave it at 50k?

lorettapolaski's picture
lorettapolaski from Indiana is reading The Honest Spy December 11, 2017 - 12:41pm

Thuggish, my understanding is that the finished draft needs to be 75-80k. It really does need to be longer. It's not complete. I have lots of color left to add.


Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal December 18, 2017 - 9:31am

How about this: go somewhere. Somewhere where there's no internet maybe, or whatever you do when you avoid writing.

It's like people who only work out once they're at the gym, because, they're like hell, I'm here, I might as well.

So take that laptop on a drive to the nearest library or whatever, open it up, start reading what you've already written, maybe zone out to some lyric-less music... And see what happens.

lorettapolaski's picture
lorettapolaski from Indiana is reading The Honest Spy December 19, 2017 - 5:31pm

Thuggish, great idea. How about a cruise. All by myself. LOL

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal December 26, 2017 - 12:18am

Well, they seem to be no longer running into giant disasters on the level of shitting in a bag and leaving it outside their rooms (why wouldn't you just throw your shit into the ocean?), so... have at it!

PS Fight Club was under 50k words. Just saying.