Letting my Baby Go – Tougher than I Thought

Have you ever had a plan to do something you knew all along you had to do, but when the time came, you hesitated and were filled with doubt?

196_24125258568_4360_nDo you remember the day you had to let go and trust your baby to take her first wobbly steps? Or watch him toddle off without you, to catch the bus to kindergarten for the first time? Or do you recall filling with anxiety when you gave her the keys to the family car, and she drove off by herself with her brand-new drivers licence? When these events came up in my life, I visualized a miles-long, psychological umbilical cord stretching out between us, connecting us. I wanted to hold on to my baby, nervous she might stumble, afraid he wasn’t ready, terrified she would crash and burn.

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I know, I know. I’m being dramatic. These things occur every day in people’s lives, and everything almost always turns out fine. My babies have grown up, and they both turned out great.

So I was surprised two days ago, when these emotions came back full force as I relinquished my newest baby, my completed novel, into a reader’s hands for its first critique. (You didn’t think I was referring to a real baby, did you? 😉 )

Conceived sixteen months earlier, then outlined, written, revised, and edited, my novel rested, finished at last. I knew a critique was the next necessary step. But was it truly ready? Was I letting go too soon? Had I edited, and re-edited, enough?

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I can’t let you go!

I paced. I fidgeted. I waited to hear the first damning word of criticism, or a longed-for word of praise. Tough stuff to wait for when it’s about something that consumed your thoughts and attention for so many months. And my own objectivity flew out the window weeks ago.

Happily, it was praise. My reader is now a third of the way through, and suggestions of tweaks have been miniscule. I realize he has a way to go yet, but I’m encouraged already for three reasons:

    1.  In the first sitting, he planned to read the first three chapters, but read the fourth because he said it was hard to put down. (!)

   2.  By the second chapter, he said vehemently about one of the antagonists: “I hate her!”

   3.  Even though it isn’t his usual genre (my book is geared more toward a female readership), he admitted that his interest had been captured, and I should go ahead and start the sequel I’d been considering. Yay!

So far, so good. Maybe now I can stop worrying and relax a little.

Have you ever felt on edge when you allowed someone to evaluate a creative project of yours? Please share your experiences with me!

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Completing My First Draft: Three Things I’ve Learned

 

Two weeks ago today, I had a fabulous evening.

Late on that Friday afternoon, I typed the last word of the last sentence of the last chapter of my Work In Progress. It felt wonderful! What a sense of satisfaction filled me as I raised my glass of Cabernet and toasted to my awesomeness. What an accomplishment! I spent the rest of the evening, and well into the night, celebrating, mentally patting myself on the back and grinning like an idiot.

My euphoria lasted about as long as the hangover. Over the next couple of days as planned, I reviewed a few of the writing tips and tricks I had bookmarked for my upcoming revision and editing process, and I crashed back to sober reality. I realized there was still plenty of work ahead, and instinctively I know certain areas have to be improved, rearranged, and completely rewritten, and then there’s my iPad with an app full of collected notes, jockeying to make it into the finished product as well.

But that’s okay. Every writer knows the first rough draft is exactly that: a first run, a rough copy, and yes, some of it is just plain shit. But in among the steaming heaps that stank, I knew there were jewels just waiting to be polished, the little jewels that make it all worthwhile.

Here are three chief concepts I believe every writer, who truly wants to be a writer, needs to remember.

1. No one wants to read about a Goody Two Shoes. If I expect readers to keep turning the pages, my characters have to be flawed. Whether that makes you like them, or love to hate them, depends on the types of flaws they embody – and maybe it depends on the sort of person you are, and what types of characters you are drawn to and like to read about. As important as plot may be, really, it’s all about the characters.

2. If you aren’t having any fun while you write, I don’t know how you will ever make it as a writer. A writer writes because she wants to, she has to, regardless of recognition or book sales. The fulfilment is in the process. And it’s a hard process. The best piece of advice I read about writer’s block was to put the manuscript aside and try penning a poem, or exploring another creative endeavor.

3. You have to want to write another book as soon as you’re finished the one you are now writing, The sweet possibility of a sequel keeps whispering in my ear, and that excites me. If I do write a sequel, however, it doesn’t mean the first one will depend on it. The novel I’m writing now will be able to stand alone in its own right. Then there are the flashes of inspiration for other book ideas that come during my writing, to which I can refer and develop when needed.

I’m waiting another couple of weeks to give myself more objectivity, before I start revisions. In the meantime there are plenty of good books and other reading material that beg for my attention.

Then on to the Second Draft!

Please share your thoughts with me about your Work in Progress. 🙂

 

The Creation of a Novel: a Progress Report