On Facebook, I see a lot of people feeling “blessed,” This, I have noticed, often precedes a humble-brag about their gifted children or new vacation house, so I use the word with some reservation. But I am feeling that word these days.
On Wednesday, I send off revisions for ETIQUETTE FOR RUNAWAYS to my editor. I have, for the first time, included the dedication (top secret), author’s note, and acknowledgements. Today, I sent off a check to pay for the rights to use the lyrics of an Irving Berlin song I feature in my pages ($100, for those who wonder). I sent a list of possible new titles to my agent and a writer friend whose own books have great titles (thanks, Sue William Silverman). Now this, one might argue, is the normal progression of things. These extra bits get added, pre-publication, duh. Here’s the thing, though. All of a sudden, my story is a real manuscript. Now, I’ll wait to hear the next round of suggested pre-publication edits. More on that in my next post. For now, I need to get back to reading every-damned-word-aloud to myself. It’s amazing how many awkward phrasings and overused words can be caught this way. Twelve chapters down, 35 to go.
So, backing up a bit to August 21, here is the start of this post, with recent events in my journey:
Soooo. Last week I received my publishing contract. This is a huge milestone and it marks the progress of my first novel being introduced to the world in August 2020. I am feeling really grateful. It was funny though, because receiving final version of the contract was oddly anticlimactic. It came in DocuSign format, meaning I virtually signed it with a robo-script of my signature and then clicked on a rectangle and it disappeared into the ether. I actually had to ask my agent if I had done it properly. And that was that. I had a half-glass of flat Prosecco that was in the fridge and took the obligatory selfie, only I was holding my laptop instead of a paper contract. My family has been hearing about all this for so long that I didn’t even make an announcement or anything. I sort of mentioned it as an aside.
Also, last week my dear friend Colleen Baz was visiting. She’s a very talented photographer and has worked professionally with CrossFit and doing portraits. She also has done work with terminally ill kids and most recently with Colorado teens in search of adoptive families. Here is an article about what she’s doing. I told her I had to have a new headshot done, b/c, you know, my hair is no. longer. brown. She took some snaps in about a half-hour. It was so nice and I wasn’t all that self-conscious.
I got back home three days ago and immediately went into a frenzy of cleaning and weeding and yard work. I realized today that this is nesting, as I did right before I had my daughter. I mean, it is a rare thing for me to get on my knees and clean the dog door. I’m getting ready to receive my editor’s first round of comments on my manuscript. Then I’ll have about a month to do revisions before sending it back for round two. I suppose I’ve been getting things ready to hunker down and work. I bought a few weeks worth of groceries, made all absolutely necessary appointments, returned calls and emails, took the ancient bulldog to the vet and committed to giving her twice-weekly anti-fungal baths at home (don’t ask), and generally made it possible to not leave the house for the next four weeks.
Anyway. I did some major revisions on this manuscript before I found that the best way, for me, to make big changes is total immersion. Now, since I wrote this book, which I began in 2015, I have gone through an MFA program and one agent and found another and written a second novel and started a third. So, when I re-read this manuscript last week I had not had my eyeballs on it in its entirety for an entire year. It was almost like reading someone else’s work.
JUMP ahead two weeks to August 29. I’ve been virtually introduced to my editor and received her first round of suggested edits. It is a vital part of the writing/publishing process to go through revisions and edits. First, writers do their own honing and paring and re-working. Then there might be workshop, advisor, or writing group comments. Then, if a piece is selected for publication, there are editor’s comments. Writers need to be open to feedback and be able to filter out what they believe will make their work better. Only the writer knows the essence of the work. But I tell you what, reading pages of constructive criticism is hard. My first, instinctive reaction is always defensiveness. Someone thinks my baby has big ears? But the way to process this, for me, is to sleep on it. Give it time to marinate. My immediate defensive reactions are always emotional, I feel hurt and my impostor syndrome kicks in. In a day or so, that will fade, and I’m better able to absorb the feedback as what it is—valuable, objective criticism.