I’m currently sat in the ‘beta reader’ phase of the editing process. I’m sat, admittedly, impatiently waiting for a few lovely people to hand me back a hefty questionnaire regarding said novel. I must say a massive thank you to those who have already read this next project and the ones who are in the process, I couldn’t fully put into words how grateful I am to you for trusting me with your precious time.
As the years have ticked by, I can honestly say that I have been able to handle criticism, albeit constructively, far better than in the past. I put that down to ‘City Streets’ being my first literary babies that I didn’t want to grow up, I wanted my litter to remain held only by my hands and unscathed as a Mother would want.
Maturing, I have released the parental grip and I’m letting my third flourish in with the other ‘children’, I’m throwing it out there, letting it get a little rough around the edges and waiting for the letter to come back and tell me that with a bit of polishing, my now toddler could be a fine figure of a novel as it continues to grow.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is how self-critical I can be at times; and yes, I know this happens in all walks of life and not just with writers. This evening, I have scolded myself through poor formatting more than anything else. However, that is through the delights of skim reading and kicking one’s self at the realisation that your beta readers have noticed this and been nice enough to simply focus on the content rather than silly placement errors.
Before I let myself get ravaged by my own telling’s-off, I allowed myself to bathe in celebration alone for a little while. I let a stupid, wide smile wash across my tired face in the elation that the work I’d been battling with for eleven years was finally completed, back in June.
I knew in that moment that it wasn’t perfect; it’s not at this moment and time, nor will it ever be, nothing ever is. But I let myself have that. I sat and realised that I’d managed to create another body of work that I couldn’t believe had surfaced from the depths of my mind. I smiled again as I truly felt proud of what I’d managed to accomplish, knowing I’d fought with myself a lot over the past year or so.
I honestly believe that it is more than acceptable for you to give yourself a congratulatory moment. To some, it may appear conceited, yet to anyone who has held a goal for years, I do think you should allow yourself a little time to revel in what you have created or achieved. If you can’t, my question to you is ‘why are you doing it in the first place?’.
As reward, I gave myself a couple of months off, using a holiday to edit my first draft. In those eight weeks prior, I left my characters engraved in those pages and weaved with errors. I didn’t want to even think about anything to do with it for a while. I wanted to come back to that draft with fresh eyes and a sharp mind of what to correct and change.
I wish I could view it from a reader’s perspective, however. I wish I could open that manuscript and not have a clue about what lay inside, I wish I didn’t know my characters inside out and tell myself ‘No, Samantha would never do that.’
It’s a physical impossibility. I just hope that someone someday gets the same joy as I do from reading a really good novel, as they read mine. I hope a reader gasps in shock as they read a twist, I hope they smile as they believe their predictions are about to come true, only to turn the page with a frown as their assumptions were wrong.
In order to do that, I need to follow the next steps. Another edit and a print out – unconventional for most writers, but I find I connect more to the work if it’s physically on paper in front of me. That’s the main reason as to why I scrawl every word down first and type it all out when I’m done. A pain-staking process, but my process all the same.
After I’ve done that again, I really feel clueless as to where to go from here. I would like to go for a professional edit, which would be the next logical step. But there’s the small voice in my mind that tells me that every single letter will be wrong and it will read like a shaken dictionary once it reaches their palms.
Then after that – another edit? Send it straight out to anyone in the industry with a pulse? I have no idea. I have tonnes of books on this kind of thing, yet even opening the page to find out the answer genuinely terrifies me, and that is the honest truth.
This is the part when I start to feel overwhelmed and try to sieve the bad ideas through my brain, all in hope that a good one will remain so I can build on it and weave a new tale. All in the while of me shaking it violently until all the grains are dropping through, I know in my marrow that this current story is one I would love to see smiling at back at me as I walk into a bookshop, and also one I know I should see through until the bitter end.
Surprisingly enough, I don’t think this novel is utter shit; however I do go through the motions with this, call it another ‘process’ of mine. I hold ‘City Streets’ close to my heart, yet I know I still have one more novel to finish for that trilogy to be completed. Thank you to everyone who has read that little labour of love, I really appreciate your support and kind comments.
For the time being, I need to eat, sleep and breathe this latest work. It’s usually a topic that crosses my mind for the majority of every day, yet sitting down and being alone with it can cause vulnerability, especially when it is complete.
I couldn’t honestly tell you what the purpose of this post was; I think I wanted to write something, pulled out my folder containing the latest edit, made some notes and was filled with some of the strains I’ve written about above.
A week off alone with this book would do me a lot of favours, somewhere quiet and away from distractions – yet I’m rather a good procrastinator, I know I’d find a way.
I stare at the folder with a mixture of emotions.
I stare at it knowing it’s the one thing I want most in the world and the one thing I’m the most terrified of; and again, that’s the honest truth.