How Hamilton Inspired Me to Nail My Revisions

How Hamilton Inspired Me to Nail My Revisions
There’s something about Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton, that is. And there’s something about the epic new musical that shakes up everything we ever thought about Broadway. Alexander Hamilton is “young, scrappy, and hungry.” And as writers, it’s impossible not to identify with his intense ambition, his passionate lyrics, and his willingness to do what it takes to survive.
  hamilton hamilton publicAs I’ve been tapping into my own ambition to tackle some big revisions in the PitchWars manuscript I’m querying, Hamilton has been in the background. I’ve blasted it from my computer, my car, anytime I need to fill my heart and mind with the intensity of ambition, of a nation so young it can barely crawl.
About to start a duel? Any Hamilton cast member will tell you there are “10 things you need to know.” About to start a revision? There are only 5 things you need to know.
HAM-Courage
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 You know you need to do the revisions, but just thinking about it makes you want to hide under your desk. Maybe an agent has sent you some awesome ideas for revision, or other readers have pointed out some cracks in your plot. Pout a little, then put on your big-girl panties (or briefs, for you gents). And within the week, dive in. If George Washington had escaped the Battle of Yorktown to pout and eat ice cream at Mount Vernon, none of us would be here.
 HAM-MyShot
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This is the R&R anthem. Maybe you were hoping for an offer from an agent, but the agent asks you to revise and resubmit instead. Don’t despair. This is incredible. This is YOUR SHOT. This agent has spotted something special in you. It would have been easy to send a nice “thanks but no thanks” but instead this agent has chosen to spend their time helping you make your book the best it can be. This is golden. Do not throw it away.
 
HAM-Late
 
Whatever revisions you need to make, you’re exactly where you need to be. Set big goals, set sub-goals, but don’t sacrifice quality in a rush to speed things back out into the great querying universe. There is no reward for being the first one back out.
HAM-Satisfied
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Sad but true. No matter how many readers you’ve had, how many tabs on your revision spreadsheet, things will never feel complete even after you’ve obsessed over every line of feedback on your to-tackle list. Stop right before you’re at the point of sabotaging all the good work you’re already done.
HAM-OutofTime
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Why? Why do you do it? Why do you write; why do you revise? Because you love it. Because as writers, we all love it. Be true to your craft and your vision of the story while remaining open to the visions and possibilities that others present.

Pep Talk: A World of Endless Insecurities

*clears throat*

*grabs megaphone*

GIVE ME A P! GIVE ME AN E! GIVE ME ANOTHER P!

WHAT’S THAT SPELL?

PEP! AS IN PEP TALK! WOOOOO!

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Okay, cut me some slack. I was homeschooled. I have no clue what a pep rally looks like and this is how I imagine it, okay?

In preparation for drafting this talk of the pep, I asked my fellow writers on social media a question: As a writer, what are your biggest insecurities? What do the voices in your head try to tell you?

Well, it turns out there’s a lot of insecurity and fear in the writing world. (You’re shocked to hear this, I’m sure.) The responses were varied, though many shared common themes, and most (if not all) sounded very familiar as I read them.

“That it’s not good. And alternately, that if it *is* good, it’s the last good thing I’ll write.”

“Boring. Boring. You’ll never figure out what comes next…you’re a disappointment.”

“I fear never finding an agent. Or, finding an agent but never selling a book. Or publishing a book and no one buys it and I get dropped by publisher, editor, and agent.”

“…that I’ll never be able to competently convey the richness of the stories in my head because I’m not a strong enough writer.”

“That the world doesn’t need my perspective. That it’s all been said and said better than I could say it.” 

“That it’s just a guilty pleasure, not good enough to warrant all the time I spend away from family…”

Lastly, one of my favorites (and probably the one that best conveys my own current insecurity):

“That I will lose my mojo and suck.”

As I thought about what sort of encouraging, highly inspirational words I could shower upon all of you to ease your fears, I realized something.

No matter what I say, these fears and insecurities are never going to go away.

I know, I know—PEP TALK.

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Before you go all Inigo on me, hear me out…

Too often we think that once we reach a certain point in our writing journey, our fears and insecurities will magically disappear. I can tell you from experience, they don’t. Change focus? Yes. Disappear? Unfortunately, no. Before I had an agent, I worried that I would never get an agent. Now that I have an agent, I worry I’ll never snag a publisher. Or that the ability to write the words has escaped me and I’m nothing but a one-hit-wonder. And I’ve seen enough chatter on Twitter and Facebook to know that even published authors struggle with fears…that their book will bomb, that no one will show up to their book signings, that they’ll fall short of expectations…and the list goes on. If there’s even the slightest possibility of it happening, let’s face it, we writers will fret over it.

Now, I can tell you I’ve been there (I have). I can remind you of how many times famous authors have been rejected (but is that encouraging or just depressing?). I can advise you to find a community of people—writers and friends—who believe in you and your stories even when you’re not sure you believe in them yourself (seriously, do it). But the best way to defeat the voices of doom is to drown them out with the scratching of your pen.

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Just because we love writing doesn’t mean it’s easy, but (in my humble opinion) it IS worth it. Think about your favorite book. Maybe it’s the one that made you want to be a writer yourself. Maybe it’s one that got you through a terrible time in your life. Maybe it’s one you go back to again and again, reading it for the millionth time for the sheer joy of revisiting the characters and places you love.

Now think about this: At one point in time, the author of that book faced the same fear and insecurities you’re facing.

And all those authors who so kindly bared their souls and answered my question? They are all incredibly brave, marvelous, wonderful people.

Because despite all those fears and insecurities, they’re writing anyway.

So write. Don’t worry if the words aren’t perfect yet. It’s okay. They’ll get there. Because your voice is unique. Your story does matter. There is a reader out there who needs your book. And the world is full of creative inspiration to replenish your mojo.

And then…

Keep writing. Even when it scares you. Even when you’re 99.9% sure it’s crap. Even when that rejection comes. Even when someone else makes a cutting remark about your “hobby.” And when fear and insecurity tell you to stop…

Write some more.

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