We writers need to be a little vain about our stories. Yes, that’s spelled right. Vain. Not Vein. We need to love our work. Unconditionally. We need to think it’s the bomb and have a deep-seeded need to shout about it from the roof-tops.
Why do I say that now? Couple reasons:
1) If you don’t love your book why should you expect anyone else to?
2) If you don’t love your book when you start this process of publishing, you won’t even want to be in the same room with it once you’re done.
Normally, when a writer begins a novel, she looks at it like that first stage in a romance, when things are new and fresh, and warm and fuzzy. She wants to hang out with it all the time, and when she’s not with it, she’s always thinking about it, wondering what’ll happen next. But then about halfway through the journey she’s considering having an affair with another story. Hopefully, by the end she’ll at least feel like even though she and her story may have had a few good fights she’s not ready to divorce it just yet. Maybe the romance still has a chance.
Because publishing is unending. Like a marriage, your book returns, staring at you, waiting to be looked at and talked to. You do that first draft with wide eyes and then you have someone else look at it, and the romance suddenly feels like a forced co-habitation. How could the story you created betray you? How could it suck so bad? So you edit. You fix, and sharpen, and hone the words. You send it back to the reader and they say, Better, but this or that is still a problem. You fix that, and then you send it off to agents who seem inspired by your genius. Now, you think. Now me and this story are getting somewhere. Sure glad it shaped up and got its act together.
But even as you sign with an agent on the dotted line you and that story are just beginning the journey. There will be at least two more edits, along with maybe five more times you read that thing. The words will start to blur together and you’ll forget people’s names and shoe size and have them sitting in one sentence, then standing in the next. Because you can’t take it anymore. The story is trying to kill your brain!
And then the agent says: We’re ready! And you take a deep breath, thankful you had a chance to make the story better, thankful for your agent’s miraculous brain (because yours has turned to mush), and after a very long nap you feel ready for you and your story to take on the world!
But as the editors’ rejections roll in with comments like, Not unique enough. Or, Lacks spark. You sense waves in the relationship between you and your story. You thought it was ready, but its failing you yet again. You read the story several more times through, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. You want to put it through the shredder and just run into the arms of that new story. Because it’ll understand you, it’ll behave itself.
Until the one editor says YES! And you stare unbelieving at that check and realize, it’s finally happening!
Then you get that first edit letter in the mail. 😉
Now, I think on average a story goes through two edits with an agent, then with a publisher there are two to three “overall” edits, two copy-edit rounds, then a proof round. By the time you’ve finished the process from start to finish, you’ve read the manuscript a gazillion times and rewritten a good chunk of it more than once. You may even have parts of it memorized. You have spent endless hours, morning, noon, and night, holidays and work days staring at it, thinking about it. You’ve ignored dishes and laundry. Your children are wandering around like zombies searching for food to no avail, because you haven’t gone grocery shopping in three or four weeks. But that story is perfect now, it’s been approved and honed by a dozen eyes. It is now a BOOK.
And then it’s landing in the reviewer’s lap to be torn apart.
Happy Heart-Day! Now go fall in love with your story again. 😉