Hearing the Big, Bad Editing Voices…But Not Listening

At the beginning of this year, I made a choice to put away the book I’d been working on for a couple of years. There were lots of reasons, most of which I went into here. The minute I opened my mind to working on something else, a MG idea I’d had in a file jumped in and shouted, “Me! Me! Me!”  That’s what I’ve been working on for the past months, and I haven’t regretted the change once. Oh, sure, there are worried about whether this WIP, too, will only get so far and then stall out, about whether I’ll fall out of love with this MC. But I’m pushing those worries outside and letting myself play with the story and, for now at least, stay in love.

Actually, I’m pushing away a lot of worries. For many years, I really didn’t understand when people talked about the “editing” voices and insecurities that got in the way of their writing, that stopped the flow. I’d been lucky, I guess. The one book that I’d worked on forever, with little progress, I hadn’t really cared about. The first book of my own that I did fall in love with, I finished, and–while I can see why it didn’t get agented or published–it made me happy, still makes me happy. Ditto for the picture book I still have agenting/publishing hopes for. So, basically, while not everything I worked on turned out well, my confidence level (okay, yes, possibly my conceit?) was pretty high.

And then came Caro. Who, basically, kicked my confidence in the butt. I haven’t gone really deep into analyzing the why of this, other than recognizing all the possible reasons why her story was too hard or too not-right-for-me to tell at this time. Basically, I decided I was in-hate with my writing every time I sat down with her, and that wasn’t what I wanted my writing experience to be, so…drawer.

What’s been really interesting, though, are that some of the bruises Caro gave me seem to have turned into scars. Not big, bad ones, just little cracks in my confidence armor. My son and I have a thing we do when we’re reading books or watching a movie: as soon as the hero gets cocky, we’re basically like, “Here it comes! He/She is going to get it!” So, yeah, maybe I was a little cocky. And maybe, in a little way, I got mine.

Which is okay. Maybe I needed to come down a bit off the “I’ll get an agent! I’ll be published next year! Everybody will read and love me!” (Say the last three sentences in the same tone as Sandra Bullock’s “You want to daaate me. You want to kiiisss me!” from Miss Congeniality.) Maybe I needed a push back into remembering that writing is for loving words and loving stories and loving the doing of it all. At least for me.

But…as I work on this MG WIP, I am hearing more voices. They’re saying things like “Hey, just pick which point of view you want and stick to it.” They’re waving at me and saying, “Really? Are you sure that scene goes right here? How will that connect up with that scene you wrote two days ago?”   They’re recommending that I put the story aside for a week or three and go research X. Or Y.

I think the voices were probably there when I was working on Caro’s story, and I was not just hearing then, but listening to them. Without realizing it? If that’s possible? Whatever was going on aurally, I think I was bouncing around a bit like a pinball. Do this. No, do this. But that won’t work; you’d better do this instead. And–possibly the worst thing for me to believe–you can do it all at once!

I know people hate the voices, but I’m kind of feeling lucky, this time around, to actually be hearing them–to be aware of the games my brain is trying to play. Because, at least now, I can use my fine-mesh, all-iron, keep-the-bad-fairies-away net to catch them, look at them, hear their words, and then say, “No.”

One example. In this WIP, my MC, Charlie, gets caught up in something, something very cool and, I think, sort of real and unique all at the same time. His interest becomes a passion, becomes an obsession, becomes some real trouble. And, of course, his interest is something I know only a little about. You know where this could lead, where one of those voices is “recommending” I let it lead. Yeah. Research.

Well, hey, look at these shelves. These are the books that I bought when I was researching for Caro’s book. This doesn’t show you the ones I got from the library.


I’m not sorry about any of the reading time I spent for this book; I am now officially in love with Chicago and in awe of Jane Addams, and none of that is bed. But…do you think it’s possible that I overwhelmed myself? Let’s all say it together: DUH!

Okay, maybe not. Maybe.  All I know is that I get a slightly PTSD’ish twinge when I think about doing any research for Charlie’s story. Story. That’s the word. I feel like I know enough about Charlie’s thing to write his story. And these little warning bells go off every time I think about learning more about that thing. For now. Warnings that maybe I’ll get overwhelmed again, find myself chasing facts down various paths, playing with all the different ways Charlie could play with those facts. Warnings that maybe I need to figure out Charlie first and then take him with me into the research.

And for now I’m going to listen to the bells.

Not the voices.

How badly do the voices hit you? What do you do to push them away? How do you settle into trust of yourself and your characters?


  1. Bells and voices plus your WIP– you got a lot going on inside that pretty head of yours! I’m not sure if I’m one to give advice because I’m definitely in the learning curve stage myself, but I do know that I stopped to research too many details (what was the type of plant Kate might have noticed on her bike ride?) in the beginning and have learned to leave more things blank because so much will most likely change. I use Scrivener too–although not as much as I should–but one thing i do ALOT is write comments to myself about things I need to research later or am not sure of now. That way I can keep writing forward knowing there will be a time when I’ll go back and figure it out. Or not. ‘Cause maybe that scene will get deleted!
    Not sure if that helps or not.


    • beckylevine says:

      It always helps to hear someone else’s perspective, Carol. And we’re all in the learning curve stage together, I think.

      At the time, I felt like I was just soaking up the time period and events and doing reality checks on what would be possible/not possible at the time. Now, though, as I watch myself be tempted and have a bad feeling about the tempations, I’m thinking I did probably let the research get in my way of telling/seeing the story. So, yeah, this time, trying it a different way!


  2. Jenn Hubbard says:

    First let me say–I was following your blog via RSS feed through my LJ friends page, and at some point that feed stopped working, but I didn’t realize it, so I’ve missed a bunch of your posts. Now I’m following you via my Blogger feed, so here’s hoping I’m back on track.

    About the research you did for that book that didn’t pan out: it’s never wasted. I find myself using pieces of things I’ve researched and experienced, and I thought I was going to use them in one book and ended up using them in a different book.

    As for the voices, yes. A good part of my blog is given over to dealing with those voices, and the floundering about and the self-doubt and the trial and error that are, for me, just a natural part of writing.

    In a way it’s even fun, because the rest of my life is very scheduled and organized. But in writing, I’m bushwhacking through head-high weeds and I can’t see anything but what’s in front of me, and I keep stumbling onto beautiful places as well as not-so-beautiful places.

    All the books I’ve written have jerked me around at least a little bit, some more than others. It doesn’t mean I’m working on the wrong story or that this story won’t work. I give up, forge ahead, give up, fall in love with the story again, over and over.


    • beckylevine says:

      I haven’t been commenting as much on your posts lately, either, because I’m doing a lot of blog reading on my phone, and for some reason it always wants me to log in, which is trickier from the phone…ah, technology!

      I’m going with the fun on this book. I got so far from that with the last one, I was disliking the writing for the first time in almost 40 years of doing it. I’m not GOOD at it yet, but I’m really trying to let myself ramble and go with what feels right on that day, at that moment.


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