Saturday, April 2, 2016

Marking time

I turned in a book to my agent and editor on Friday. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, done. There will be an edit letter and feedback and revisions and possibly more substantive edits and then also copy edits and all of the pieces that go into making a book done. But it is out of my hands for now, and what I feel, more than anything, is relief.

It felt like I had been working on this book forever. That wasn't the case, of course, but even owing for dramatic exaggeration, I was shocked to look back in my email and realize that I'd gotten the go-ahead based on draft chapters and a thing that masqueraded as a proposal from my editor in early August. It felt much longer.

It felt, as I said, like forever. I cannot actually tell you how many times it was that I threw out and rewrote the first 25K words. It was a large number, large enough that it has fled my mind. I really didn't get my feet under me in this book until November, and writing that long without feeling like I knew what I was doing felt, frankly, awful. Worse still, I felt like I had to clutch that feeling close, to keep it as a festering secret, because it was a thing too bad to tell anyone.

I began to wonder if writing Roses and Rot was somehow a fluke, that maybe I really was only capable of writing one book. I had very specifically tried to make choices in this second, new book, that were different - that were more complicated, less familiar, because I wanted to push myself, to stretch and grow as a writer, and I then, when the writing was so hard, when I doubted all the time, began to wonder if maybe there really was only a small skill set that I was capable of.

I'm being purposefully cagey here. I'm not looking for reassurance or compliments - on the bad days, I wouldn't have believed you anyway, and now, it's done. It's in. It's not perfect, but - in the rereading and rereading I did on my last passes - I saw the things I wanted to see. And it will be different still, by the time you see it. I think of the changes made in Roses and Rot, from the version that sold to the version coming out next month, and how much better the book is because of them.

Part of me still clings to the mirage of perfection. That I will write something perfectly the first time. That what is in my head will appear in the true and best form of the story, and then that story will burst fully formed onto the page. Part of me still measures myself against that, and looks at the stack of notebooks and drafts a full six inches high on the ground that turned themselves into this book I just turned in calculates, in inches, the places where I almost gave up.

So I am marking time, and reminding myself that it was hard, and that I didn't give up. That I wrote, and I made a book out of those stacks of paper. That I did this before, and can do it again.