On my (pre-published) Writing

So, I’ve written something. Something big. Not big as in destined for Oprah’s book club big, just big in the sense that it’s the longest, biggest project I’ve ever undertaken, let alone finished. A novel – 250 pages of my heart and soul poured onto paper. For weeks and weeks I hardly slept, instead spending long hours up late with the laptop, immersing myself in a little imaginary town, in an imaginary county, with imaginary people. When I wasn’t actually writing, I was hearing conversations in my head, imagining how my characters would feel, how they would react to the events of their lives. For days and days the line between my own reality and that of my own creation blurred… I was immersed, consumed, and (just ask my husband) completely preoccupied. I’m still not sure where it all came from, and how I managed to survive on so little sleep, but there was really little option. The story wouldn’t leave me alone until it was written. So I wrote.

And then I finished. It was by no means perfect. I wasn’t sure I was even completely satisfied with it myself. But the story was told, from beginning to end. And that felt good.

And then, it felt cruel and horrible and awful. Because logically, now that it was finished, someone was going to have to read it. That’s why I wrote a story, wasn’t it? So someone could read it? But what if it was horrible? I’d never really fancied myself a writer of novels… a teller of stories about anything other than my kids, here in the safety of my own bloggy happiness. I had no idea how such an offering would be received by those around me. And yet, I knew it was necessary. So I gave it to my husband. He read it, while I tried desperately not to stand over his shoulder and study his face for any sign of confusion or boredom, or horror. Miracle of all miracles, he actually liked it. With his vote of support and tremendous encouragement, I sent out my manuscript to a handful of friends and family and asked for feedback. And then I waited.

It was horrible waiting a reasonable amount of time. I mean, it’s not as if you can send out 250 pages and expect a response 24 hours later. So I waited, and waited, trying hard to shake the feeling that I’d asked the cutest boy in class to the senior prom and hadn’t yet received an answer.

Slowly but surely, the feedback started trickling in. My sister was given the arduous task of being my very first hard core copy editor. She’s still, heaven bless her efforts, working to take the entire thing to grammar school, pointing out my excessive use of ellipses, my overuse of commas and identifying the sentences that must have been written with my head under a blanket. I’m grateful for this necessary editing, and know that no mistake will make it pass the careful and ever brilliant eye of my marvelous sister. From my other readers, I was mostly interested in their response to the actual story. Did it make sense? Did anything stand out as blatantly out of place? Confusing? Ridiculous? And most importantly, did they like it?  I near begged for criticism, though I prayed it would all at least be constructive. How could I ever expect my writing to get better if I wasn’t willing to submit myself to the reactions of others, both good and bad?

But oh. It’s so hard!!! Hard to put myself out there, feeling so completely exposed and vulnerable. Those words, that story, it’s me. Not about me, but a reflection of my creative energy. To have others read it, and then vote yay or nay is so stinkin hard. Put me in the middle of a football field naked. Really. I think that might be easier.

In my own little world, on my own couch where no one reads my words but me, it’s easy. I’m happy, my characters are happy and everyone loves everybody. And yet, it isn’t quite enough. The process of writing, of creating is certainly fulfilling on it’s own, but to create something that can reach other people, that can inspire, uplift, and entertain… I’m guessing that’s even better.

So now I’m gearing myself up for an extensive rewrite… a removal of unnecessary commas, a resolution of timeline discrepancies, and loose end story lines. And then, I guess the next step would be publishing, or at least, an attempt at publishing. Of that, I am totally out of my skin terrified. Terrified of having someone big and important tell me that my baby, my very heart expressed in words isn’t good enough. What then? I’d like to think I’m strong enough to pick myself up and try again, write something else that will be good enough. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet though. So not sure that for a moment, I think I actually AM content sitting on my couch all alone, simply dreaming of what it would be like to see my name across the bottom of a book cover. Life is so much easier in fantasy, isn’t it?

But then I wake up and realize that sink or swim, ain’t nothin gonna happen if I don’t get in the water. So I’m gettin in.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

18 thoughts on “On my (pre-published) Writing

  1. DeNae says:

    Oh, I am so with you there, sister! I wrote a book, and rather than risk rejection from publishers, I published it myself! What is this pathological need to express ourselves through writing and equally pathological fear of being rejected??This blog thing has been an effort to bring my writing up to a level I can live with. Not sure if it’s there yet, but I’m working up the courage to take that next step!I’ll ask the wizard for courage for you if you’ll ask him for me!!

  2. Annette Lyon says:

    Been there, done that. You describe the feelings so well!And here’s the irony–when it gets published, you suddenly get a new kind of panic, because CRAP! now thousands of people will read it and there’s no WAY they’ll all like it. What if they hate it and I get bad reviews? It never ends. But we do it anyway, because we love it.

  3. Cheryl Lage says:

    Good for you!!!! Please try not to let any “negative” opinions of others affect the joy of your accomplishment! (This from a fellow overuser of ellipses…. 😉 )Revel in the positive feedback and remember so much is subjective….I doubt you like everything you’ve ever read—but those smae texts that you haven’t felt were fab are someone else’s favorite book! And vice versa. 🙂 You’ve done a GREAT thing…enjoy!(and I’d love to know when it’s available on Amazon! Have you sought out an agent? Might be the time….get Jeff Herman’s book and GO FOR IT!

  4. Lew says:

    I’m still halfway done…but I promise it’s not because I don’t like the book. I LOVE IT!! I just need to print it b/c I do all of my reading, in bed, under the covers. And, my laptop is busted, so I can’t do that. Do you think your friend that printed it would let me borrow it? I feel guilty everyday about not finishing it, but i know if I had a copy, I would have finished it in a day. I love you and I love your book!!!!!!!!!!

  5. InkMom says:

    I will not dispute your overuse of ellipses. Really. Because it’s rampant. I mean, seriously, what’s wrong with a period? However . . . as one of your admittedly small, but certain to grow, audience, you have nothing to be worried about. It’s good — more than good. Good enough to be published. Good enough to gain a following for you. End of story. One of these days, I hope our roles will be reversed. One of these days. Or years. Whenever I get around to being as okay without sleep as you seemed to be!

  6. Happy Mom says:

    Wow! I’m so impressed. I’ve dreamed of writing a book since high school, but I’ve never so much as put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to begin. I know how I feel about just my blog entries and can’t imagine the vulnerability of putting a whole manuscript out there for feedback! You go girl!!! I’m rooting for you. Let us know when you get published. I’ll buy one!

  7. Lisa says:

    Good for you! You’re good at writing period. Not overly technical, or overly anything, I just love how you write. I’m sure it’s great. You should be proud!

  8. Melanie Hoopes says:

    I’m in the process – long process of writing as well. I don’t quite have the stamina to go to sleep deprived for two weeks to finish it up. I have no doubt it’s great and absolutely want to view your genius creative side. Can’t wait to read it. Let me know how the editing, querry, and publishing process goes! Congrats!

  9. Terresa says:

    Sweetness! You go, girl. From a Librarian's perspective (that would be me), know that there are so many crappily written books out there, that you, me and probably even our young children could write better stuff & indeed be published authors some day. ;)Writing my first book is a road I'm still traveling down…I'm 15 chapters into it and doing the best I can to balance life along with writing. I'm finding it fun & consuming and crazy! How 'bout you? Enjoy the ride!!

  10. Lindsay says:

    I really am in awe of what you did, first draft mistakes or no. To actually start, and let alone finish, something of that magnitude is quite the accomplishment. Go you! I think that just about every writer out there gets the jitters when putting themselves out in some sort of public view — whether it’s giving their manuscript to friends and family to read, or publishing to a wide market — so be nervous, and know that it’s totally normal. Also, don’t stop here! The next time a story builds inside you, spit it out on paper. You’ve got a real talent.

  11. Claudia says:

    I can’t wait ’til you are published so I can buy your book and read it in a few days!!!!! :DExciting times.Congratulations on pursuing a dream … that many of us have but not as many are willing to take the time and effort to do it. Good Job Mommy J!

  12. Karen says:

    I’ve written a novel too and I understand the terror you’re feeling. Only my husband has read it….I dont have the courage to ask anyone else to read it. I’ve been sending query letters out to agents for the past year and can’t even get them to read a few chapters. But I’m not going to give up…..I’ll just keep on truckin’.

  13. Code Yellow says:

    Amazing. Seriously. You can already be proud of the accomplishment – some of us have novels in our head that we’re too lazy to do what needs to be done to get it on paper, let alone put it out there for people to like or not. So, huge congratulations on coming so far already!!!!And don’t fret 🙂 You can always choose which criticism to take and which to leave alone – use your instinct and natural talent to lead your writing and you will never go wrong…Expressing yourself is always a game where some people will adore you for it, and some people won’t, and that’s totally OK.Anxious to hear how it goes. (And I’d love to give it a read…sometime.)

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