Last fall I hired a freelance editor to help hone my manuscript. Really and truly, aside from the $150 dishwasher we bought when expecting child #3 in 3 years, this was the best money I have every spent in my entire life. This editor - Andrew Meisenheimer his name is - got what I was trying to do, loved my characters and style and then wrote five pages of everything I was doing wrong. It was like getting a rearview mirror that helped me see my blind spots. It was a graduate course in self-editing. My prose suddenly looked flabby and I wondered how on earth I had ever gotten an agent or had any publishers willing to look at the book before. Truly.
So, I put my little head down and wrote and renovated and revised. I finished the final draft on February 12 at 3:22 pm, just before the kids were due home from school. As I wrote the last sentence, something clunked into place in a good way, and an electric shock ran down my back, again in a good way. I was finished with it. If it doesn't sell now, so be it. I've done the best I can with it and I'm essentially happy. I have always told the joke - How many people does it take to write a novel? Two: one to write and another to shoot him when it's done. Because when is a novel ever done? Except it is.
(There is one scene that needs some help still, but it won't be a showstopper for any editor, I'm sure, and I really need more help with it.)
What I feel proudest of is sticking with this story. Ten years ago, I was part of a drama workshop. We all wrote and workshopped one-act plays. My play was largely autobiographical, with a fictional premise. The autobiography was what stumped me - I didn't know what I would actually do if the situation were to present itself in my life, but I couldn't get away from myself enough for my character to figure out what she would do. So, despite diligently writing 40 drafts, the only parts of the play that lived were peripheral characters. To make matters worse, I had added extra pressure to myself: some of the plays were to be acted out by real actors on the night of my 30th birthday. I decided what I wanted most for my birthday was to invite all my friends to watch my play and then to come back to my place afterwards for champagne. Only, the play was really awful. Even I knew that. My 30th birthday was fairly miserable as a result.
Now, at 40, I celebrated just because (how's that for wisdom coming with age?) but I also persevered and, what's more, threw caution to the wind and wrote with abandon - and with Andy's incisive, brilliant help.
And today, I'm working on revisions to the sequel. The story of the sequel is nowhere near as strong as the original - they never are, are they? - and once finished the first one, I've had a hard time being willing to tackle this one.
But today, I'm asking myself What Would Andy Do, and I'm hearing his advice as I edit and write and cut and paste. And I want to push through that inevitable block that says it stinks, and the inevitable self that stands in the way. Whether or not it gets published.
* What Would Andy Do?