In my last blog post, I promised (threatened?) to share the story as I attempt to publish the manuscript I’ve been working on.
Back in early May, I sent what I thought was the completed manuscript to a freelance editor, who has intimidating credentials. Right off the bat, she told me that she didn’t love third person for my audience. Gulp. How can she know this after only three chapters? I thought.
A few weeks later, she wrote to tell me that everything was going really well. Just that one line. Ugh. What does “really well” even mean?
Then, on Monday of last week, I received her editorial letter: a global edit of my novel; 18 single-spaced pages of questions, critiques, and areas needing improvement. I put that thing away for a full 24 hours. I needed to mature really quickly before taking it all in.
The next day, I still wasn’t ready. Kept away from it for another 24 hours.
Finally, I called her, and we talked through it for a while; the whole time, in the back of my mind, I struggled with the real question: is it good enough to keep going? I never asked her that question, though. I hedged around the edges: is the voice strong enough? what are your thoughts if I tried first person? what did you think of this character? And so on, and on, and on.
I hung up the phone and can’t say that I felt any better or worse for the conversation — and I found a quote — I like quotes — to summarize my thoughts on the matter (see pic).
I spoke with a dear friend (and fantastic beta reader). I thought about it a lot, and a new question started bouncing around in my head: Can I rewrite 400 pages?
Not should — can? And the answer is obviously yes.
So a week ago today, after I drove through the afternoon showers that are so typical of Florida summers, I arrived in Orlando for my first ever SCBWI conference, unpacked my stuff, and started rewriting my novel in first person present tense. My editor was right. I started to love the manuscript a little more.
The next day, I attended a day-long novel comprehensive and received some excellent feedback on that very first page that I had hammered out a few hours earlier. If there was a health meter (I’m imagining myself in some weird nerd writing fantasy video game), I would have earned another heart.
The day after that, I attended a day-long young adult session and rediscovered a forgotten thread of my novel: the talisman that had been such a critical symbol in my very first draft had faded away after too many revisions (thank you Lexa Hillyer for that reminder). Another heart in the meter.
My health meter is fully charged now. I’ve written four more chapters, I’ve raised the stakes at every step of the way, my characters have more depth, I know my novel’s logline (thank you Bruce Hale for that exercise!), and I think I finally get it.
That it doesn’t matter if I should write or rewrite or cut or add or … or … or. All that matters is whether I want to. That’s why I’m writing, because I want to. And that’s why readers read, because they want to.
Another valuable lesson from the last few weeks? Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary sport. I always imagined myself as having these unique experiences — the heart wrenching debate over what tense and point-of-view, over how much physical description it too much; in fact, it’s a heart-wrenching debate over every conceivable detail, every word is a decision. That’s exhausting, but going to the SCBWI Conference and being in a room of people who can commiserate on these “problems” so unique to writers (#writerproblems?) was affirming. Writing is not a solitary sport.
So, the journey continues … and the manuscript status is updated to WIP. Work in Progress.