Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Best Part of this Book Has Yet to be Written


Imagine that after writing approximately 1,000 typed double-spaced pages only to discover that you're writing the wrong character's story, you begin again, writing an actual novel, 400 or so pages. Then, it needs work. Of course it needs work because it's too cheesy and too magical and too goddess-y for what you really like to write and "evoke." Okay, so you revise.

You've titled your novel ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL. Snazzy title! And you've revised it so many times, 17, in fact that you don't know if it's really any good, but when you write the final chapter, you cry, so you think, "This must be good." I'm going to show it to my agent, and she's like, "This is good. We'll pass it to the editor." And then the editor says,

"I love you," BUT
"I don't think the best part of this book has been written yet."

And both the agent and editor tell you (really me, but for some damn reason, I am writing in 2nd person), "Don't worry about it right now. Concentrate on promoting The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors," and you're like, "I can't. I'm mad with the words how Becca in The Handbook... is mad with the paint," so "I have to keep going. I have to figure out what's wrong with this book." So you think and think and think and then it comes to you. It's not the book it's supposed to be yet. You've cheated by not dotting all your I-s or crossing all your T-s. And this month, you've written 150 new pages and you realize this book isn't ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL, it's CONVERSATIONS WITH DEAD PEOPLE.

And you want to throw a parade for your editor, to thank her for having balls enough to tell you the truth, because even though some things are hard to hear, they are also WONDERFUL things to hear.

4 comments:

  1. I LOVE this post about your process and will definitely share it with my students, who never want to hear that the best part of their essays haven't been written yet.

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  2. I love this about the writing process!!! It's an amazing moment when the light bulb finally goes off!

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  3. Thanks for this inspiring post. Your dedication makes me want to read the next book even more.

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  4. Thanks, guys. It was really important for me to share this post because even when I think I have something right, even when it's brought me to tears, I've often missed the mark. We all need to be open to criticism. I can't imagine being the kind of writer who isn't open to feedback.

    Thanks!

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