Don’t feel teased; I am still totally going to tell you about my Night of Writing Dangerously (tantalizingly alluded to here, here, and here. In fact, I had planned to make that post this post. But of course, plans “become different or undergo alteration”.
This day a year ago, I was writing a novel – the novel, incidentally, that I had intended to be my 2011 NaNoWriMo project, until the Holy Spirit nudged me to make that November my PerGoSeeMo instead. (Talk about recurring themes: This whole story started with changed plans!) So my novel writing month moved from Nov. 1 – 30 to Dec. 14 – Jan. 14. Not that I’d really made it a point to write the book in a month, mind you; that just ends up being my pace, sometimes.
I was pleased with the finished story, and after a couple read-alouds with friends and the usual hunt for typos, I began sending out queries, hoping to find an agent who loved this idea as much as I did. Don’t get your hopes up, readers – this narrative doesn’t end with that magical “yes” that gets me signed and published and famed throughout the world. But I did get a “yes” from a different quarter.
I’d entered my novel in a “Write Your Own Adventure” contest run by the editors at Cogitate Studios, and to my shocked delight, I was a winner! And my prize was absolute gold: A full reader’s report on my manuscript, plus a query letter critique. Professional feedback for free? Cue the authorial happy dance!
So time passes, I get the editors’ notes, and guess what? They loved the book as much as they thought they might when they first saw my entry. But just because you love something doesn’t mean you think it’s perfect. (There’s a lot that could be said about family and friends, here…) They had questions. They had issues. They had suggestions. And I, as the author, now had some executive decisions to make.
What, if anything, would I change, and how?
I don’t like the thought of change. It’s why it typically takes me so long to go to bed at night, and why I may get up only grudgingly in the morning: I’m reluctant to switch my state of wakefulness for sleep, and vice versa. It’s why I’m really bad about having my plans wrecked, particularly on short notice: I’d thought I knew what was going on with the world, and then the rug gets pulled out from under me!
I’m not arguing that change is not a good thing, because it often is a good thing, even a necessary thing. But it is also, often, a hard thing – particularly when it comes to an author and her literary baby.
Partly for this reason, I decided that I’d start revision on the novel sometime in January or February. Y’know; “later”. As “later” drew nearer, however, I began to feel the pressure of my impending start date. Know what I like even less than change? Pressure. And the only way to stop dreading what I knew, intellectually, probably wouldn’t end up being so dreadful an ordeal, after all, was to just do it. So that’s what I did.
Some cuts were stressful. Some additions were challenging. Some alterations were agonizing and got made anyway, and some I deemed, after much consideration, were just as well or better not made. (Remember: You’re allowed to say “no” to suggested changes. As the book parent, you have to do what you believe to be best for your baby – whether that means changing a thing or leaving it as-is. Use your best judgment, and pray your kid doesn’t end up in book juvie.)
The mass revision took my yesterday and today, meaning my intended blog post didn’t get written, but I have no regrets. For one thing, it gave me fodder and motivation to write this blog post while my thoughts and feelings on the experience are still working their way through my system. For another, my novel is better now. Is it perfect? Probably not. The fact that there may be no such thing as a totally perfect book aside, I just know that there are typos, awkward sentences, and formatting issues waiting for my next pass through the text. But the plot and themes and all that jazz is sound, and I think I’m now at lower risk for confusing and/or boring my readers. And I still love my characters and their story. Better yet, the professionals who gave it a read feel the same way. (Words are inadequate to describe how glorious that feels.)
So now it looks like I’m on track to start querying this book again, come the new year. And y’know what would make a great change for 2013? My becoming a published novelist. Let’s see what I can do to make that happen.