Boy, it's a hell of a thing – I went weeks without putting anything here, because I just had NO time to even contemplate it, and now I got posts stacked up and circling like 747s at LaGuardia.
But I do have to bump the regularly scheduled programming for today. Because today, I said goodbye to my first book. Yep – as of right now, One Night in Sixes is officially off to the printer, and out of my hands forever. So, you know, huzzah and bittersweetness and metaphors about sending the baby off to college and all of that. All of it!
Here is what's really amazed me about the whole process, though. At every milestone on the road to publication, the scope for changes gets smaller. First the content edits (big picture story stuff). Then line edits (sentences and paragraphs.) Finally the page proofs (individual words, typos, punctuation.) Like that duck in a pond that’s slowly freezing over, you the author are swimming in smaller and smaller circles, until finally you have to heave your duck ass out of the water, because it – your book – is becoming a fixed, finished thing, with no more room for you or your endless fiddling.
|Which isn't to say we didn't catass every page of those revisions.|
Needless to say, I've spent MONTHS angsting about how this book will be received – you know, how well it will sell, and who will hate it and why, and whether and how I can deal with that. But what surprised me this weekend is that... like, I thought that by the time I got this far, I would look at this sucker and think, "Yes. This is absolutely the best that it can ever be. It is a flawless gem, one that I am now sick of looking at. Go, my precious diamond, and cleanse the world with your light!"
But I'm not sick of it. I love this story as much as I ever have. And it's not perfect. Or at least, I'm still looking at it and seeing ways to change it, even though the deadline for those kinds of changes has long since passed.
I thought that would make me sad. After all, this is my first published work, my first impression. This is the thing I chose to write when I was soft and new and nobody had any expectations about me. Once this book is out in the world, I will officially no longer be an unknown quantity. I will be judged by my sales numbers, star ratings, genre, style, reviews – rightly or wrongly, people will look at this thing I made and think, "That's her. That's what she does." And although I can always go write something completely different later, One Night in Sixes will always be out there - a yardstick that people will use to measure me, and a permanent part of my reputation.
But even though it was years in the making, this book isn't my one single, special pearl. It's more like a skin or a shell – a reflection of me and what I could do at a specific time in my life, and one that had to be finished and cast off so that I could start growing another one, and another after that.
(With that said, I do hope you enjoy my first fictive sloughing - I will be talking about it in far more appealing terms over the next few months!)
Oh, and in the name of posterity and motivation for everybody who's still in the trenches, this manuscript was born on February 2nd, 2007, and ended yesterday, May 18th, 2014. Seven years, three months, and sixteen days. Keep at it, y'all. It's a long row to hoe, and there's nowhere to go but forward.
Pulitzer Prize, here I come! Hemingway! Steinbeck! Scuzzbopper!