For every thing I’ve done right on this first-time-writing-a-novel thing, I feel I’ve done two or three things wrong. I work at it most every day, but I don’t always work organized. I take notes as I work, but those notes are not always coherent or even helpful. I read tons of writing advice, and sometimes I read so much writing advice I overthink when I should just be writing.
This week, the biggest writing sin yet. Except if I’m honest, it’s not a this week, it’s more a past-couple-of-weeks thing.
I lost my editing notebook.
My editing process is twofold. Rather, it was twofold. I kept notes in the margins of the text as I worked, especially writing down things which were too big to tackle while I’m trying to work quickly through the draft or things I wasn’t sure how to fix. I also kept my notebook handy, writing down a running list of general things which needed fixing in the novel as a whole; continuity issues, missing elements, character arcs, and a running outline of the book.
Losing this book is driving me up the walls. I’m so incredibly frustrated. First of all, for losing all that work that I’ve done and will have to re-do (never mind that I won’t be able to do it the same way next time around). Second, for the loss of momentum; I haven’t taken notes the same way elsewhere because I keep hoping the thing will turn up and I don’t want to deal with copying notes over or, god help me, keeping two notebooks. Third, and probably worst of all, I am a jerk to myself. I mean, a rat bastard. The Howler Monkey of Doubt has been on a gleeful screeching bender since the book has gone missing: “YOU’RE AN IDIOT FOR LOSING IT, IT MUST NOT HAVE MATTERED TO YOU THAT MUCH, GOOD LUCK ACTUALLY GETTING PUBLISHED IF YOU CAN’T EVEN KEEP UP WITH A LOUSY NOTEBOOK HAW HAW HAW”. Yeah, that guy always speaks in all caps, he’s as annoying as you could imagine, and he’s in my head ALL THE TIME.
I’ve tried all the tricks. Retraced my steps. Looked through all my bags, every drawer in every desk near any place I ever work on the novel. Checked the cars. Checked the floor under the desk. Checked under the bed. Looked in the tank on the back of the toilet. Anywhere I might conceivably have been thumbing through the thing. Not a sign of it. I’ve uncovered all kinds of things I thought lost or thrown away forever — some very nice pens I thought I’d lost, a few decks of cards I used in class during my first year teaching, my old notebook I used as a soccer coach last year — but not the one thing I need. It’s either been stolen by a malevolent authorial gremlin or maybe, JUST MAYBE, some clearer-thinking, much more level-headed version of myself hid it away, knowing I’m going about this edit all wrong.
Because make no mistake, I constantly fear that I’m doing all this writerly stuff wrong. I drafted wrong, I’m taking notes wrong, I’m evaluating the copy wrong, I’m not reading critically enough, I’m reading too critically, I’m working too slowly through the draft, I’m not taking enough time… name it, I’ve had that spot of doubt. Let’s not pretend I haven’t lost things that mattered before, but they always seem to turn up eventually. I’m going on about two weeks without my notebook, and considering I was using it just about every day, it’s making less and less sense that I simply mislaid it.
I’m talking this in circles and it doesn’t help, but I can’t adequately describe the depths of my frustration with myself for losing this thing. Granted, I could probably re-create the notes I’d taken in the book with a night or two of dedicated work, but the simple fact that it’s been lost in the first place has so disheartened me…
Ugh. If it doesn’t show up over the weekend I’m going to have to start the stupid notebook over from scratch.