Writing Wednesday: Have you got the yips?

I was reading Russell Brand’s Booky Wook 2 t’other day and a passage leaped out at me. It was about “the yips”, which Brand described as “the condition that affects darts players and golfers… the inability to let go of the dart or to take the final putt.” A quick Google suggests that the yips may be physiological rather than psychological as I think Brand was suggesting (though I could be wrong), but anyway, his description put me in mind of something I think a lot of writers struggle with – letting go of a book.

I recently did an interview on Nicky Schmidt’s blog Absolute Vanilla and one of the questions was “… who or what really taught you to hone your craft?” After flailing a bit in my answer, I finally came up with Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Manuscript Revision, which I think made a big difference in dealing with my own “yips”. Holly introduces the method thus:

The first draft of your novel is finished. Now, according to the recommendations of any number of writing books, pundits, and writers who go through this themselves, you’re in for five or ten or more rounds of revision, in which you’ll polish your work until it is a gleaming, perfect pearl … and in which process you’ll dither for months or years.

I did indeed dither for years. Years. And then even when I had what I thought was an agent-ready book, I dithered some more. My dithering manifests itself in research. I researched the best way to present a manuscript, what paper it should be printed on, whether I should print it at all*, and, of course, which agents to send it to. Now all of this is important and has to be done, but it should take weeks rather than months or years. If, like me, you started researching agents when you got a new Writers & Artists Yearbook and were still researching when the next year’s edition came out… that’s too long. You may have the yips.

It’s understandable – I think it’s that typical thing of as long as the manuscript is in your head or on your desk, the dream is still alive, but by sending it out into the world you risk shattering it. But it has to be done. It really does.

As Holly Lisle puts it:

The point of a novel revision is to finish this book. I guarantee you that as long as you’re willing to keep piddling around with the same manuscript, you’ll find ways to make it different. You don’t want to make it different. You just want to make it as good as it can possibly be, and then get it out the door.

Why? Because the definition of a writing career is: Write a book. Write another book. Write another book.

I love that. And I think “get it out the door” all the way through the revision process. What about you? Do you suffer from the yips? How do you deal with it?

* I decided not to print and only queried agents by email.

{Photo: The lovely typewriter necklace my sister got me for my birthday}


3 thoughts on “Writing Wednesday: Have you got the yips?

  1. I just had a big case of the yips with my final OU short story but I took a deep breath, pressed send and will now be pouring a G&T and going to potter in my garden.

  2. Yes. *Nods in recognition*. You’ve hit the nail on the head. I have the yips. Argh. Wish they were as cute as they sound… On a more serious note, thank you for this well-timed post. Perhaps by naming the yips I will be empowered to defeat them and actually, y’know, start submitting again.

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