I’m editing my book.
This is a big deal to me, for many reasons.
Y’see, I have a very…complicated history with my book. I wrote it for NaNOWriMo about 7 years ago. I asked a few people if they would mind reading it for me, and help me edit it. My boyfriend, girlfriend, and best friend all said yes. I sent it to them. If I remember correctly, my girlfriend started off saying she was really busy but would get to it. We’ve since been married and divorced; she never got to it. From what I remember, my boyfriend at the time (now my ex-husband) told me my writing was too flip for him and he couldn’t help me. My best friend said he couldn’t get past the first few pages because it wasn’t really his style/genre. Maybe I should just let it die and move on to another project, I thought.
Over the years, when I’ve mentioned my book and the trouble I was having motivating myself to edit it and finding people to help me edit (I’ve never had the money to pay someone, though one day, maybe.), a few friends or partners said they’d love to read it and told me to send it along. I did.
I get it. Life gets in the way. Or my book sucks. It could. I’d just prefer to hear that and why. One of my pet peeves in my college writing classes was that people would think saying “it’s great” or “I didn’t like it” counted as constructive criticism/praise. Could you please tell me why you thought it was great? What part(s) were great? Or what about it did you not like? Is there anything you can think of that would make it better?
My most treasured teachers, professors, and fellow students knew how to give constructive criticism. When I was in high school, it was hard to hear that I used too many clichès. But you know what? It helped me dig deeper, beyond what everyone says about things and really, truly think about what I was trying to say. Does this character’s significant other “complete” her, or does he “miraculously have a copper key to a hidden room in her soul”?
Yes, it was hard to hear the bad criticism. But it made being told I had a real ear for dialogue and being favorably compared to J. D. Salinger and Tobias Wolff all the sweeter.
I tried telling my friends and partners that, seriously, if it sucks, tell me. Just tell me why. Most recently an ex-girlfriend had said she’d take a stab at it, but life…exploded in more ways than one. My sister also has a copy. She got the furthest, that I know of…about a quarter-ish in. She said it was good and she liked it, but it was a little darker than she was expecting. Also that she recognized a lot of what I’ve gone through in it.
Not gonna lie; she’s right. Shit gets heavy in my book. And there is a whole lot of my life in it. Fictionalized aspects of real people in my life are peppered amongst the characters and plot. Since I was writing under a severe deadline, I went with the old adage: write what you know.
The other day, when helping a friend edit a memorial for a dearly departed, said friend remarked how much fun it was to write and edit with me. I concurred, and said we’d have to write something together. Or, I ventured, “maybe I should sit down one day (or weekend) with you and edit my damn book.” He replied that he didn’t know I had a damn book. When I explained the whole history from above, he told me to send it to him. Many feelings popped up: trepidation (no, not another friend who’s going to just let it go or not tell me it sucks or something. Please.), fear (what if he does read it and it sucks?) and guilt (why don’t you get your ass in front of a computer, edit your own damn book , and see if you think it sucks.) Pushing them aside, I asked if he was sure. He responded with a simple, “yes.”
So I sent it. This was on Thursday. Last night, he apologized for not getting to it yet. I laughed, refreshed by his earnestness. Then I reassured him that it had only been a day and I didn’t expect a full report, or even him to have cracked it open yet. “Now, six months down the line, if I don’t hear anything, then I might be a little upset.” He told me that wouldn’t happen. We’ll see.
But the most important thing is that I was thinking about that conversation with him tonight in the supermarket. And I was thinking about the characters and…they started whispering to me again. They were still there. Still waiting to be worked on, to be brought more fully to life. And then I found myself…with the doc open in front of me and…editing. So, naturally, I had to run and blog about it, so I could be sure to optimize my procrastination time!
Now that I’m done with this blog post, I’m going back to editing my book.