Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First Drafts

I have the distinct honor and privilege of having had my fourth book published last week and my fifth book, which will be published next year, done and submitted. It is called “Third Degree,” and I finally let go and sent it off yesterday. Although I’m overjoyed by the publication of “Final Exam,” which so far, has been well received, I’m a nervous wreck having submitted the new manuscript yesterday. You’d think that a day as joyous as that would leave me relaxed and serene.

Far from it.

Let the nail-biting begin.

Thanks to fellow Stiletto-wearing Susan McBride, I’ve stopped (kind of) engaging in risky behavior once a book is published. To wit: I no longer Google myself. I no longer read reviews unless my publisher sends them via email with a cover letter that’s either filled with glee or comes with a warning to not open until I’m sitting down (hate those, by the way). I definitely don’t check my Amazon numbers. These are all very wise instructions from a very wise, and not to mention, fabulous, writer.

But when you turn a manuscript in, there’s nothing left to do but wait. I hemmed and hawed about this latest manuscript’s “doneness” for far too long. Let’s just say that after repeated calls to the only other member of my writing group, the supremely-talented, Alison (no relation to Bergeron), to get assurance that I could indeed send it in and not be embarrassed, I hit the ‘send’ button. Honestly, I thought that I would be happy and relieved that I had beat my deadline by not one, but TWO, weeks. But instead, I feel anxiety.

Why is that?

I’m sure that the venerable Stiletto Gang ladies and all of our faithful followers can weigh in with a variety of theories. I’m fairly sure that they’ve all felt what I’m feeling right now in varying degrees during their writing careers. You worry that it isn’t as ‘done’ as you had thought. You have separation anxiety, thinking that with just one more day, or one more edit, it will be perfect. You have concern that your agent and/or editor won’t ‘get it’ and that they will look askance at you like “what the heck were you thinking, girlfriend?” You fret that it’s just not good.

But after four books that have gone into the interwebs and to my editor and agent, I can tell you that a variety of these things happen, sometimes all at once, sometimes one at a time, sometimes in batches. It may not be perfect or they may not ‘get it.’ Or they get it, but it needed one final edit. Or some parts are great, and others just don’t work.

When all is said and done, it’s a first draft and you’ve been treating it like a printed book.

You’d think I would have avoided this pitfall because as you all know, my day job is an editor. But the wise counsel, hopefully, that I give to the authors with whom I work apparently doesn’t apply to me. It takes some getting your mind around but everything that one puts on the page is not brilliant the first time around. That’s why we have editors, and agents, and trusted friends who tell us the god’s honest truth when something just isn’t that good.

Until that time comes, however, I’m going to revel in the wonder that is good health, a wonderful family, a fulfilling career, and an overall feeling of happiness and well-being that a perfectly-constructed mystery can add to but can never bring totally.

Best wishes, Stiletto faithful.

Maggie Barbieri

5 comments:

  1. Congratulations on turning it in two weeks early. It will be great, relax and enjoy (I know easier said than done).

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  2. I sometimes write for a newspaper (this is currently my venue of open publication) and even on short pieces I fret.

    I think I fret because what I write matters to me, is dear to me, means something to me. I'm not writing a grocery list (which I have to admit I do spend too much time over).

    It is, no matter the form or genre, putting yourself, wedges of your soul and intellect, out into the heads and hearts of others and that is worrisome. It's silly that it's worrisome, but what are you gonna do?

    Excellent job getting done ahead of dead-line, Mags. Enjoy the time to refuel before you start on the next book!

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  3. I think all of us feel the same way. But isn't it great when the book actually comes out?

    I think authors have a lot of angst through the entire writing process--and that's probably why we are authors.

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  4. Feeling your pain. I'm a few days behind you on submitting the next manuscript. But what a great accomplishment to have a new release and a book in the queue in the same week. Outstanding! Congratulations on both counts.

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  5. Maggie, sending a first draft to your editor is like dropping your kid off for the first day at school. Will the other kids be mean? Will the teacher be overly critical? But I know everything will turn out great! So now it's off your plate for awhile so you can enjoy the holidays. Hooray! I hope you treated yourself with something chocolate and decadent???

    Hugs,
    Susan
    http://SusanMcBride.com

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