I posted another chapter today and I’m currently waiting for the first comment to trickle in. The last few weeks have been the hardest in a long time. Most of that comes from the dread that I’m going to get a negative comment or complain, just like I did for the last three weeks.
Most of the complaints I’ve gotten are useful ones. I thought last week I had a good solid chapter to help reverse the trend, but then someone I mentioned I made a mistake. Not just a surprise character or an unexplained effect, but a painfully obvious one that completely and utterly conflicted with the previous forty chapters and 230k words.
I had to fix it. The problem is, I didn’t want to. I’ll flat out tell you: it was pride. This serial would be my third one ever and I have never gone back to change a plot. The most I ever did was change a character’s name after I realized I made a mistake twenty-seven chapters later. A name. This was something far different and a lot more extensive because a key character said the wrong thing. And everything that followed would have been different.
When working with a serial, this can get a lot nastier. The forums I’m posting don’t have edit capabilities. You write one and that’s it. No do-overs and no corrections. If I went and deleted the old chapter and posted the correction, there is a big “Post deleted by Bob” and all the comments get out of place. That would also be a huge reminder of my failure as a writer.
Side note: When we redid the floors of our house, there are two spots where the baseboard didn’t lie flat against the floor. No one else would notice it, but every time I walked down the hall, my eyes would focus on that spot and I had to resist the urge to point at it as I passed. I also had to resist yelling “flaw!” at the top of my lungs.
I’m usually very good at continuity. I ran RPG games for years as a sandbox game. I made up plots and kept them running for months or even years at a time. My first serials were the same way. I had a general plot (like this one) and managed to get dozens of plot lines and characters to the end without some horrendous mistake.
So, if I’m great at continuity, why did I screw up? I think the main reason is doubt. In the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to write because I was afraid of mistakes. The negative comments, though useful, made me doubt myself as a writer. In fact, the scene with the humiliating mistake was the one I kept rewriting in fear that someone was going to hate it.
So, in effect, I ended up with the very thing I was terrified of doing.
Self-doubt isn’t something that can just be magically fixed. Actually, there is nothing I can really do besides keep on writing and hope the next chapter is better. I have a lot of hopes for this week, but as one of my motto goes:
Keep on swimming.