I am an incredibly blessed woman. Seriously. I have no real problems when I look at the grand scheme of things. I am not in a third-world country deprived of basic human rights. I have a steady job with a steady income. I have fabulous students who have supportive parents. I work with incredible people.
And now, I can add to my list of blessings a fabulous editor. Seriously. Fabulous.
Editing is hard. I whip through papers at snail speed because I hate grading them because I know my students invested hours into them but I am still hacking them apart with a business-style remorse. You did this right. You didn’t do this right. You really didn’t do this right….
Editing creative writing is painfully difficult. I’m tackling the job of telling someone else that his/her (right now, just her…I have a new writing partner) masterpiece isn’t perfect. Owch! And that these sentences need to be changed. Ack! Or that this section needs to be removed. Pow! I feel like a cheesy Batman episode right now. Sorry for the onomatopoeias.
I love my writing partner. I used to be a member of a writing group but had to leave them due to my over-burdened Monday night schedule. They have shifted to a new night and if I can just stay awake long enough, I am going to try and meet with them again because beta-readers and writing groups are amazing.
I have an editor as well. A former student is interning with a publishing house in New York City and she has offered to edit my baby for free. YES PLEASE! A good, professional edit would cost me at least five thousand dollars right now. That is the equivalent to four mortgage payments. That money, alone, would pay off my husband’s car and our new furniture in addition to putting some serious money into our daughter’s future braces. That money would pay for my husband’s computer science endorsements he is planning on earning in the next two years. That money would be a chunk of my son’s first college semester payment.
Essentially, I can’t devote five thousand dollars to an editor. However, former student/editor extraordinaire is daily immersing herself in my manuscript and working. Hard. She has identified a scene that will need to pulled. A scene that will need to be summarized. A chunk of a scene that will need to be condensed. She has reigned in my over-creativity and desire for beautiful words that clogs up the writing and helped me see how to retain the dignity of the voice. She reminded me that clever writing isn’t always good…it’s just clever.
The concept of “finished” truly is a concept, a non-linear understanding. I have worked on this novel for 12 years. I have so many drafts of the same story that I didn’t want to finish it this time. But I had an agent who nibbled (and very graciously and kindly said no) and I knew I had to finish the novel. I have dreamed about the characters standing in my kitchen, glaring at me, as I pleaded for their forgiveness. “I will tell your story,” I promised them.
Yeah, it was a dream. About three imaginary women. But it still kind of haunts me.
I am learning so much. I am worried about the end result. I will not lie. But I will not give up. I will take my editor’s recommendations and I will think about them as a reader, not a writer. I will separate myself from my manuscript and my history of writing it and will look at it with a scalpel posed to incise and improve.
I will remove scenes. I might put them online in a page dedicated to the out-takes of Polishing the Bones. But I will not mourn their loss. I am learning. And learning is not an easy process…it is a difficult and challenging process. But I will continue to walk this long path. I am unafraid.
I was at Hallmark the other day and found a bracelet. Made from leather with little adornments along the side (a pearl, a key, a bird), in the center was a metal plate with the word “fearless” stamped on it. I wanted to buy it but fretted about the money.
Yesterday, I received from my aunt a “pocket charm” with a compass rose on it. I love it. I carried it with me to school today (my pockets are deep enough so I don’t have to worry about losing it). As I was talking about post-colonialism in Malaya, I dug my hand into my pocket, rubbed my finger along the relief edges of my own compass rose.
About the size of a quarter, it reminds me to push forward, to follow my true north. I don’t know where this experience is leading me. I still want to try the querying process. Maybe it’s me being stubborn and stupid. Maybe it’s me doing what I’m meant to do. I will try it. And if I am not picked up, my editor recommended local boutique publishers whom I will query.
I am not defeated.
I will be fearless.
And I am so thankful, so grateful for what everyone has done for me. I would be remiss to end this entry without coming back to the people who matter. My family, especially my husband who comforted me on rejection number one with “Oh well, you have ninety-nine more chances.” My friends who lift me up and hug me even when I’m not sad because they want me to know that I am loved. My children who understand that Mom is immersed in her office grading and writing and editing and will eventually emerge but just give her a few more seconds of play-time. My colleagues who read and re-read my query letters, my synopsis, my words. My beta-readers who follow me down these long paths and help me see how my audience will respond. My writing partner who gives me courage to keep writing. My editor….my blessed editor who is fearless as well. Thank God for her courage….she makes me a better person.