I’ve just completed the first draft of my third novel. You’d think it would be cause for celebration, wouldn’t you? After all, I’ve been working on the manuscript for just over a year. Actually, about fourteen months. Fourteen months, one week and three days, precisely. That’s fourteen months, one week and three days with tangential voices in my head. And they didn’t always wait patiently for me to sit at my computer and arouse them. Rather, these voices woke me up at night, nagged me while I was swimming laps, bugged me while I was trying to watch television, or listen to someone who was talking to me. They interrupted my teaching, distracted me from my research, entertained me while I waited for the bus. In short – they were always there. And now they’re gone.
Anyone but another writer may think it strange. But I know these voices really well. They belong to individual characters with their own personalities. They have good points and not so good points. They have their personal likes and dislikes, talents and weaknesses. Like the rest of us, they are fabulous and they are flawed. But they are mine. I created them, nurtured them, grew them to the point where they surpassed my creative development and began to dictate and narrate the plot and subplots themselves. They let me know who was capable of what, what was or was not consistent with their psyche. They told me where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do and with who.
Sometimes we battled it out on the page. I would write what I wanted to happened, they would refuse to comply, and that particular chapter or scene would sound clunky, or wouldn’t flow properly, or had some often unidentifiable factor subverting the plot. Other times, if I allowed them free reign, their interpretation of my narrative view resulted in a flow of words as smooth and providential as red wine and dark chocolate on a cool Autumn evening in front of a crackling log fire… and all was right in my literary world!
And now it’s over.
The next step, of course, is to submit it for feedback. But there is something holding me back. This manuscript is deeply personal. Not in a ‘my characters reflect me as a person’ type of way, nor in a ‘there are biographical plot lines contained herein’ sort of way. Neither is true (well, no more true than any author creating any work of fiction).
Perhaps it’s because this novel, more-so than the first two, has so much more riding on its viability. It is, after all, an experimental work (and I’ll say no more about that this time). Or perhaps it is because in submitting their work, writers, as with any creative artists, open themselves up for public scrutiny and critique with no possibility of rebuttal. In any other profession, an employee has only to seek approval from the person above them in their supervisory line, and feedback is provided one-to-one. If the feedback is unfair or unwarranted, there are other avenues the employee may pursue. But creative artists have no such alternatives. It’s a very public climb, or fall.
In the development stages of a book’s production, an author has to send their work out with the express intention of seeking critique. First drafts always look very different to finish works. Redrafting, refining, and rewriting are necessary processes in the development of a book. Any book. A writer does not publish a book that has not undergone a rigorous editorial process. And sometimes this process can take many months, even years. We all know this.
It’s what needs to happen to my manuscript now. But for some reason this time, the risk feels too great. It’s a lot scarier than it was for my first two books. Perhaps it’s because the novel is for a different age group (16+ rather than 12-16), or perhaps because it was with a different hierarchy (interactive), maybe it’s because it will be a new editor who has a much greater power to influence me…
I’m not sure what it is, or why this time is so different. But I do know I can’t back down or back away. I have to submit. I have to know. It’s one of the most nerve-wracking, scariest, and simultaneously exciting moments as an author to date.
Okay… here goes….