Saturday, February 23, 2013

Finishing a Novel

When I’d finished my last book, Wanderlust, my husband said, “You must be excited to have that done.” Excited? Well, yes, of course. There’s something very satisfying about starting with a blank Word doc and some months or years later typing “The End,” (even knowing that the words ‘The End’ won’t make it into the finished book).
Completing Wanderlust was especially sweet because the writing went faster than I'd anticipated, and it was the second book in a series, something that had me concerned. Edgewood had gotten great reviews. Readers loved the story and the characters, and I didn’t want to drop the ball, so to speak.  Added to that was the fact that the first book was told entirely from Russ Becker’s point of view as opposed to the second book, which started off from Nadia’s point of view and then switched back and forth between Nadia and Russ, and well, I worried a bit about how well the shifts worked.
So I’d just finished a book and already experienced excitement, worry, and doubt. When I talk to my writer friends, they tell similar stories. There seems to be a certain universal chain of events that happens when you finish a book. This is how it goes:
I’m done, I’m done! I can’t believe I pulled it off! And this may just be the best thing I’ve ever written.
For a little while, all is good. No one else has seen it, so the book exists in a perfect little bubble.  And that lasts until you give it to others to read for feedback. Call them beta readers or critique partners or whatever, these people will give it to you straight, which is just what you need. And just what you dread.
They’ve had the manuscript for twenty-four hours and I’ve heard nothing. (Nervous pacing) They said they’d get to it right away. This lengthy, horrible delay must mean they hate it and are trying to find diplomatic ways to tell me so.
And then you get an email saying either that they haven’t looked at it yet because it turns out they have their own lives and things happen, OR that they’ve started it and love it so far.
She said she loves it so far! She wouldn’t say that just to be nice, would she? No. Well, maybe. But at least she didn’t say she hated it.
Next you get the manuscript back from your critique partners. You relish in the praise and laugh at their funny little comments, all of which makes the other comments, the criticisms, bearable. You have to mentally sift through all the suggested changes to decide what will make the book better and what will only make the book different.  Ultimately it’s your book.
Deep breath. Okay, this isn’t too bad. I can do this.
Oh, thank God she noticed that! I would have looked like a complete idiot if that had been in the book.
There’s no way I’m making that change. She’s just wrong, that’s all there is to it.
That night, just before you drift off to sleep, you realize she’s not wrong, in fact she’s right, and because she's right you now you have to do more rewriting than you wanted to do. Plus, you don’t like her suggestion for making the fix. Luckily, your brain works on the problem while you sleep and when you wake up in the morning, you have a different, but still effective solution.
So you make everyone’s changes and now the book really seems perfect. Time to send it to the editor for more feedback and then on to the eagle-eyed copyeditor.
I will be very surprised if she finds ANYTHING. This is such a clean manuscript--she's going to be very impressed.
You get the manuscript back and are amazed at all the things she found. Missing periods?  A misspelled name?  And you thought you knew the serial comma rule, but somehow page after page, like a complete rookie, you’ve violated said rule. Well, at least now you have a chance to fix it.
Hopefully there’s not more that she didn’t see. I mean, editors are people too, right? They must have off days, times when they are tired, or not feeling well. I hope they got it all.
And then you read it one more time, making it the thousandth time you’ve gone over it, until you feel like your eyes will bleed. And you no longer care about the characters and their problems. The dialogue seems hackneyed, the description tedious, the pacing off.  You’re no longer objective, if you ever were. You debate taking out a comma, then you do take it out, but after rereading the sentence, you put it back in. You’re spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. That’s your cue that you’re done.
Good or bad, it is what it is. I did my best.
Publication day comes and with it, the resulting nervous excitement. No matter how much promotion you do, it doesn’t seem like enough. Maybe you go out to eat to celebrate, or your significant other sends you flowers, maybe not.  The joy of writing has to be enough to carry you through. You know that and still you can’t help but hope this book takes off in a big way. Or at least doesn’t tank.
Someone left a review on Amazon, and it’s a good one! Oh happy day.
You get a few great reviews before you get a bad one. The bad one nags at you, and you decide not to look at reviews anymore, but to get started on the next book. You open a new Word doc and the blank page stares back at you, scary but full of promise. This next book may well end up to be the best thing you’ve ever written.






Pale Rambler said...

Excellent commentary! I can relate to much of what you said. Now, on to the next book in the series!!!

Bill B said...

"The joy of writing has to be enough to carry you through." Amen!

BTW, although I'll bet your TBR stack is out of control, just drop everything and read The End of Your Life Book Club. You'll be glad you moved it to the head of the line. Listening to the Audible version is even better -- play it as you're puttering in the kitchen or doing tasks where you can effectively listen as you work. Just my suggestion o' the day ツ

Kraiz said...

I would just like to say that I read quite a bit and rarely leave comments or anything even when the book is really really good.

I loved your story. I hope you continue to write and the world that you have created is amazing and still has so much potential. Just don't let Russ and Nadia break up or I will be sad :)

Keep up the amazing work!

Karen McQuestion said...

Hi Mark! Thanks for stopping by. Now get back to work writing! :-)

Bill B.--I have added the book to my list and moved it the top of the pile (after my current read which is THE HOST--want to read it before the movie comes out). It kind of sounds like it will make me cry though, which gives me pause. But you recommended it, which is good enough for me.

Kraiz--so glad you made an exception and left a comment for me, and a specific comment at that! Thank you SO much. I'll try not to disappoint you.

Christina said...

Christina - - Karen, how long did it take you to write Wanderlust? I can't wait to read it - will you send me a review copy after it's printed (and of course I'll write you a review for Book Room Reviews)?

Karen McQuestion said...

Christina, hello! If you feel up to reviewing, I can get a copy of the book out to you right away. Watch your mailbox this week!

I'm sorry I didn't think of you earlier, but I didn't want to be a strain.

And to answer your question--I think it took 4-5 months, which is not unheard of for other writers, but is really speedy for me. :)

Angeline Kace said...

OMG!!! This read like you have spent time in my brain!! lol Thanks for this! :)

Karen McQuestion said...

Your brain must be a crazy place, Angeline! Lol Glad you could relate.