Revision Doubts, or, Who is this Boy?

I wrote this on Monday, but I got so busy that I didn’t post it until now…

My critique partners and writing partners are awesome, in part because they’re so honest.  Last Tuesday two of my my writing friends helped me to take a look at one of my characters.  He’s a main character, and I’d written the entire book without a clear picture in my mind of what he wants, deep down.  I was hoping it would come out in the text, and be there for me in revisions, which I now think it has.  But, back to Tuesday.  I described this character, and my friends told me what they thought of my description.  He’s boring and stereotypical, one said.  He doesn’t sound real, he sounds like his whole personality is based on his supernatural genetics, and he sounds like a drop-out, the other said.  They asked me a lot of questions I couldn’t answer, and I gave them a lot of answers I wasn’t sure of.  Then I went home and moped.

The next day I sat down and started to write out another character sketch.  Who did I want this boy to be?  Who was he, really, under all the random crap I wrote in my MS?  What was his core?  Was it in the text?  I wrote everything I could think of about this boy, and then went back and read my original character sketch.  I was surprised as to how similar they were, but I still wasn’t happy with who he was.  So I went back and re-read the one scene that I was sure had his true voice in it, and then I mulled.  For days.

What I’ve realized today is that somehow in the last few days I switched from mulling over who this character is to procrastinating all work on the revision.  My thoughts went from “What does he really want?” to “Is he any good?  Is any of this story any good?” to worrying that I can’t write at all.  What if I’m a fraud, and can only write scenes, but can’t string together a whole narrative?  What if my book sucks?  What if all my books suck?

Um, not so productive.

This morning I reminded myself of two things.  First, even if my book sucks, it doesn’t mean that I suck, or that I’m a horrible writer.  I’ve been told enough times that my writing is good that I’ve got no business sitting around feeling sorry for myself.  Second, of course my book sucks.  It’s a first draft and like a lot of first drafts it’s got problems.  A lot of problems.  But there’s nothing there that can’t be fixed, and I have the tools to be able to fix it.  I just need to stop sulking over what I didn’t get right the first time.

So, it’s back to revision prep for me.  I’m reviewing my plot and subplots to make sure everything that needs to be in the book is in the book, and to see what I can cut.  And I’m reviewing all my characters to see how they’re coming across on the page.  As for this particular boy, he’s still illuding me.  He doesn’t want me to know his deepest darkest fears.  But I’m going to keep working until I figure him out.