Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some Things Never Change

I finished editing a book today. It doesn't feel like finishing that first draft. For me there's no elation—just relief. It's a quieter feeling, but it's nice. The problems are fixed. I hope. The story is good. I think. It was worth it. Probably.

Notice how nothing is definite. I guess that's why I struggle with editing so much. How do you really know if all that work helped? I've done a lot of editing that's essentially gone down the tube. I'm not complaining—it's just the truth. Yeah, yeah, I learned stuff and grew as a writer so it's not technically wasted. But it sure doesn't feel like that when you have a failed submission under your belt, and here you are with a new manuscript to send into that party.

It's still freaking scary. Maybe more, because you know so very well what could happen.

I wish I could tell every new writer out there that once you get an agent, once you get a book deal, once you hit the Bestseller list, that it all magically gets easy and every single one of your subsequent books will sell and succeed. But that would be dishonest. Your agent or editor can say no to that next book. It happens often.

I'm not sure I can explain how scary it is to send this manuscript to my agent. Yes, she's my agent! She likes me! I like her! But...she could still not like the book. I've learned that the hard way. Man, it sucks that your agent can still reject you, basically. Well, reject the book. We are not our books, right? Kind of?

It was just so much work. I can't describe how emotionally and mentally draining this process was. I want so badly for this experience—this book—to be validated, not just by me but by some editor out there. Yes, I said it. I want this damn book to sell. And it might not. And all that work I did, once again, could end up as just another "learning experience." I wonder how many learning experiences it'll take to get to the next level.

Sigh. Some things never change, do they?

I still want this. I still can't control when or if it will happen. That's still frustrating as hell. And, yes, there's still only one thing I can do:

Work on the next book.

Ah, the writer's life.


  1. Yay for finishing those edits! And I echo Maegan's sentiments--we're all behind you! Hoping this book is the one for you! I know you'll make it someday :)

  2. Positive vibes! POS-I-TIVE! Well done on finishing the edit. Focus on that achievement. Try, anyway :)

  3. Keep typing! Keep controlling the only things you can control. You are an amazing writer and an incredible positive force in the blog-o-sphere (pretty much a superhero, but don't start wearing your underpants on the outside, OK?)!

  4. Go you. Seriously. Just know that through all of this, you've got all of us backing you up. And we've learned nothing but great things from you! Thank you :)

  5. It's done, which means it's a worry off your mind. This is a GOOD thing. This book is its own entity without connection to the last. There's no need to fear parallels between the two.

    You've already cleared some of the biggest hurdles out there.

    You developed an idea - so you have the imagination.

    You wrote the full book - so you have the dedication.

    You edited the book - so you have the discipline.

    You have an agent - so your book is professional level.

    I can give you video game analogies to cheer you up -- publishing is Tetris and you're the piece headed for the stack. Once you find the right fit, everything else will fall into place.

    I can give you virtual cookies and non-alcoholic punch. (though you make ninja cookies, and mine are woefully plain)

    I can give you loose (and slightly awful) metaphors:

    You've done your job, so it's up to others.

    Your leg of the relay is done, so pass the baton.

    You did your duty in triage, so let the book go live its life

    I can give you a bit of paraphrase:

    God, grant me the serenity
    To accept that I am a good writer;
    Courage to change the things I need to edit;
    And wisdom to know that when edits are done I've accomplished something great.

    I can also give you virtual hugs and tell you that you've got people here who know you've got what it takes and who are waiting to cheer when you tell us you've got that book deal in hand.

    You do and we are.


  6. Natalie, I think you're chanelling my thoughts again!

    My fingers and triple crossed for you. For both of us!


    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  7. I am still revising my first finished book and I can't imagine letting it go out into the real world! I can't imagine I will ever read my book and think "there! it's done!" Or just be entertained. Stupid, inner editor.

    Best of luck!

  8. Amen to every single word. And so eloquently written. You've articulated every frustration. Why does it not get easier? Feel less emotional? I think the struggle is what will make it all the more sweeter when it does work, when it does finally happen. And it will. Keep the faith!

  9. As Maegan said, we're all behind you, to celebrate with you on your victories (like today, hoorah!) and to help you forward when things are rough. Hoping for the best!

  10. The writer's life, indeed. :) You're right, it never stops being scary, and I'm starting to think that maybe it actually gets scarier as we go along...

    Congratulations on finishing another book!

  11. The best advice I got from my agent was: Keep writing. Some days are easier than others. Staying positive and focused, key. Easier said than done, I know.

  12. I love the editing process so much more than the writing process. Getting my characters from A to B is a chore for me but once that’s out the road I can concentrate on what happens on the journey. I already know where they go and who they meet but I start to graft in what they think and notice and how they respond to what’s going on. The real issue is when enough is enough and I can’t imagine any author walking into Waterstones, picking up a copy of their book, opening it at random and not wanting to change something before they’ve finished that first page. I used to think it was a shame that Woody Allen never watched any of his old films but now I completely get it: all he can see are the things he would change. We will always think we could have done more – that’s what the next book is for. Imagine if you wrote the perfect novel. What would you do next? Give up, like Harper Lee?

  13. Hang in there, honey. Take comfort in the fact that when your first book DOES publish, all of us blog followers are going to be first in line to buy a copy!!! Yay!

  14. Hehehe...the writer's serenity prayer in Josin L. McQuein's post made me giggle, especially "Courage to change the things I need to edit". Love it! :)

    Congratulations on the accomplishment of the present and those that will undoubtedly come.


    Scary, yes, because you don't know what will happen with this book, but exciting! Hard work with a finished project to show for it is definitely something to crow about, for a little while, at least!! :)

    I'm sending all my lucky thoughts your way! Although I was born on Friday the 13th, so maybe that will hinder rather than help.... okay, taking lucky thoughts back and crossing my fingers for you instead!

  16. I'm sure it's scary, but at least you check off a box on your to-do list! That always makes me feel better.

  17. Even if finishing doesn't feel like an accomplishment, it is!! You are a wonderful talented writer.

  18. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and have never commented, so today I’ll stop being creepster and leave one. :)

    Since I'm nowhere near the stage that you're at since I don’t even have one finished book, I honestly cannot imagine what you're going through, except that I'm sure it’s beyond difficult.

    I applaud you for continuing the journey, and for not giving up. That says a lot about your character, and I admire you for that. I’m not so sure I would be able to keep pushing if I were to have the experiences you’ve had.

    I wish you the best of luck and I’m sending lots of positive energy and thoughts your way!

  19. It funny that you would post this today because I'm within days of finishing an edit on my book that I need to send to my agent. I've just signed with her, so at least I know that she loves this book but I understand the anxiety around her possibly not liking the next one. It's a bullet we get to duck when we are querying a finished manuscript but for subsequent manuscripts, it's definitely an issue. Considering the upheaval you've had in switching agents etc., I'm sure this is a very real concern for you.

    And yes, a lot of editing can be time wasted, but often you can't tell if an new angle will work until you actually write it. I've had scenes that I thought would work bomb badly once written, and I've had questionable scenes come out great. It's all in the translation, I guess.

    Good luck with sending your manuscript on to your agent. I hope you knock her socks off!

  20. Congrats on finishing the edits Natalie - I'm right there with you!!

  21. For me, finishing my rewrite was as elating as finishing my first draft. Maybe more so, as when I finished my first draft, I knew that my novel was essentially a huge mess. When I completed my (3rd!) rewrite, I was on a big high because I was so proud that I could fix that mess!

  22. Thank you so much for being so honest and open. So often we get it in our minds that once we get an agent all of our wildest fantasies will come true. No one ever tells about the hard stuff.

    And congrats on finishing edits. We're all crossing our fingers AND toes for you. (Even though it's kind of hard to walk and type.)

  23. Your honesty and vivacity is refreshing and wonderful. I stumbled on your blog twice before, but already you feel like a friend. I'm rooting for you the whole way!

  24. You know what - even after a successful book - one the is pubbed, sells, etc - the game still NEVER changes, nor do the fears. Hang in there!

  25. I just recently read (and now I don't remember where, it might have been your blog!) but it was about Sarah Dessen, and she said that some of the books she writes never make it. Even now. And sometimes she changes her mind and pulls the book back out before it's published. I was so surprised.

    Anyways, I just started revisions on my very first first draft, and I had a few ideas how to go about it, but now I feel like I could edit infinitely, and how do you know when to stop, etc? So obviously nothing compared to how you must be feeling, but I kind of understand. A little bit.

    I hope your agent likes your novel!

  26. If you're still feeling down after all these comments just look at how many followers you have. Obviously you can write because you have managed to captivate us all. Good luck!

  27. Ah, the writer's life. Indeed.

    Well, congrats anyway (because it IS a big accomplishment!) and good luck! I have faith in you.

  28. I'm seeing a resemblance between archaeology in wow and writing. You know, if you're going for the Vial of the Sands recipe.

  29. So hope it goes well for you. But you're right, there aren't any guarantees. Glad you are accomplishing a lot. Finishing a manuscript is a big accomplishment.

  30. But what's cool is your agent still believes in you! She believes you can produce something wonderful. Glad you finished it! We're all rooting for you!

  31. This post really struck me. I thought, Oh man, I AM my books - and I liked it that way! I responded in my blog.