As a first time novelist, it is something else to look back and see how far I’ve journeyed with this story. From the initial idea, to mapping out the story for a couple of months to the first draft which took months of writing – both following the outline and letting the story unfold as I wrote – it’s been quite a trip.
A funny thing happens while your brain is occupied with getting the story down – it doesn’t see all the grammatical flaws and holes or jarring transitions scene to scene. I felt right on track when I watched George R. R. Martin on Late Night with Seth Meyers last week tell how in his early Throne books (circa 1996), some of his first readers would point out mistakes like when a character had blue eyes at the beginning of the story and a different color later in the novel. Two of these early fans went on to create a website of all things Westeros. Last month, all these years later, Martin collaborated with these two readers to write The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones. I’ve written this just to justify the many eye and hair color/texture inconsistencies I found between my pages – the clunky writing, and all the “what was I thinking” lines.
That was the easy part. Freeing my characters up to be themselves has been another thing entirely. Many of my characters, so unique in my head, ended up having similar styles of speaking. Getting out of the way as a writer is something I learned from Stephen King’s, On Writing, but to experience it has been both annoying and magical. Annoying when I read a scene and am prompted that the character wouldn’t say/do what they are saying/doing but I don’t want to do any more revising (please not one more change – go away). I’m ready to cry. But, I can’t abandon my characters so I make the changes. That’s where the magic comes in. It’s like encountering a living story, of which, as the writer, you are just a part. Intellectually, I get that the good, the bad and the ugly of this novel is all me. Experientially, though, the story and characters within have a life of their own. Stephen King has said it. Other writers have said it.
To get to that point with your novel is magical, there is no other English word that is quite as apropos. And it’s fun. During the same Late Night with Seth Meyers show, Meyers, Martin and guest, Amy Poehler, alluded to how hard writing a book is. And it is. So, when fun peeks its head in to see if I need company I pull out a chair.
So where am I now with The Summoned Guest? With revisions concluding in roughly two more weeks, the novel should be ready for agent submissions right before Thanksgiving! Otherwise, I would be in danger of CRS – chronic revision syndrome. At this point, with some of the novel’s sentences recited by memory, I need other professional eyes upon it. Am I excited, or scared? Of course.
My experience is that your novel is your bestseller and your flop. Depending on your mood, or what you ate. Will this be the novel that makes you a professional author? Will you be offered representation by an agent you respect and want or be stuck with an agent you don’t really trust knows, more than you do, what’s best for your book? So, do you set your sights on self publishing instead if that happens? It’s a time of great hope and great insecurity.
My novel and I have formed a bond and if there is any flaw in it, it’s my fault – I failed my story and I’ll feel bad.
But like anyone wanting to be a parent, if you’re waiting to be a perfect parent, no children would be born and none of us would be here. If we waited for perfect writers, whose books would fill our shelves (or digital device;-)? Shakespeare? Fitzgerald? Faust? Dickens? Joyce? Best case scenario is we’d never outgrow having one bookshelf, no more books spilling over into every spare space around us. The worst case scenario is pretty terrible, though, isn’t it?
So, that’s the update. It’s another nanowrimo season and the energy of my fellow writers jazzes me to be wrapping up this phase of writing my first book. The hard work and sacrifice has all been worth it. The next phase will tell me exactly how much.