Posted by: Robin | February 28, 2008

Into the World . . . Again

Monday I began my final edit of my first novel. It is Thursday, and I am only on page 57 of 412. It is a tedious process, and it never ceases to amaze me that after combing the prose a dozen times at least I still find missing words, grammatical mistakes (which drives the English teacher in me nuts) and awkward sentences. Each time I go through and correct things it seems to only make way for others to rise to the surface. If I’m not doing that I’m tweaking the plot or a character. I start to think at this rate I’ll never be done, but then I catch myself. Is all this fussing because I’m just afraid to let it go?

Probably, and it’s not only an issue of rejection, though that’s part of it. I submitted this novel in an earlier draft through my former agent, and while it got pretty far in the vetting process of two major publishers, it hurt a lot. Even harder was the frustration. Their comments for improvement were vague, and I had no direct access to ask for clarification.

This time, since my agent released all his fiction writers, I’ll have to face the tedium of marketing not only the novel but myself to agents as well as publishers. This process is very like the prolonged screeching of nails on a chalkboard for me (and I assume most people in the arts). Once this edit is done that is what comes next, and the inner resistance is formidable.

But rejection and marketing are only one side of the coin. The other is that I have been immersed in this story (told over 5 novels) and these characters for seven years. They and their fictional world have often taken on a life of their own, doing things I never intended and surprising me in wonderful ways. Sending them into the world makes them no longer just mine. In a way, it is the beginning of the end of my time with them. I have learned so much about the craft of writing and about myself. It will mean letting go and beginning again. With that thought, fears and doubts fill me like a buzzing cloud of gnats. Have I done them justice? Has my skill fallen short of conveying their story as it should be told? Have I toyed with it too much and stretched it beyond its proper shape? Have I wasted seven years of my life?

My daughter Sarah is an actor. We often compare notes on our creative process. It is similar in most ways because we are both creating story and character. Plot and vivid characters draw on everything we are and everything we’ve done with a lot of imagination thrown in for good measure. It is a backward journey as well as an inward one. The great difference is that acting is collaborative from the start, and one has to get the job to do the work. With writing all the work is done up front and in isolation. The writer has invested heart, soul, blood, sweat, skill and often years before she finds out if she’ll get the job. That’s where I am, about to face outward, and see what comes next in a world I have no control over.

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Responses

  1. Perfection for us is an impossibility. Take your story and characters, with all their imperfections, (like your children) to their maturity, and then let them go into the world. They deserve it and the world will be better for their presence. In our own minds, we are never “old enough”, or “mature enough” or “financially stable enough.” But at some point, in hope and faith, we step out and say “It’s time,” with many ventures in our life. Do that with your writing. Give it it’s wings. It will fly… maybe awkwardly at first.. and maybe not always as we envisioned…but we need to let it go. Come on mother Robin… get the baby birds out of the nest!!

  2. Pretty clever final sentence, Jim. Thanks. Don reminded me that it’s only been six years (I keep clingng to the ten-years-to-get-published stories I hear for some of my favorite authors). You’re right. It’s time. I’m up to 163 on my edit. The end is looming!


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