Let It Go (Or Rest)

I finished the first draft of my novel in late September. And as good as this felt, as a writer, I know that writing is actually all about re-writing, so as I crept to the finish line, I knew that this was only just the beginning.

So the question became: What now?

It didn't take me long to decide that I would let it "rest". I think I need a bit of space and distance from it to feel less attached, so that when I do read it and decide on the editing strategy, I won't be as crushed as the first time that I read my memoir.

You see, the novel is not the only "first draft" I have hanging around at the moment. Back in 2015, I wrote a memoir about moving to the U.K. and my first year here. I've heard that your first book is like throwing up on the page, and I have to say that after re-reading my memoir I understand that completely. 

When I read the memoir for the first time, I simply cried. And no, my work did not move me to tears of great emotion. These were big salty tears of self pity and wallowing, and possibly shock. It was so bad!

Although there were (very small) parts of it that I liked, it just didn't hang together in the way a book should. And fair enough, it was my first attempt to write a whole book. It's not like I could expect to be good at it. But I guess I didn't expect it to be that bad.

As I worked on my novel over the past year, there was that nagging feeling, however, that I needed to do something about the first 60,000 words I toiled away at. In the back of my mind as I hacked away at the novel, I wondered what I should do with the first manuscript (and nothing was a definite possibility as well).

I think I wasn't really ready to deal with it -- I needed some distance before I could let anyone read it, let alone edit it. But in the end, I knew it needed to be done. So over the summer I got back in touch with the editor I had first chatted with about the book. She was still interested, and so I shut my eyes and attached it to an email and sent it over to Boston for a read through.

I was nervous, but I knew that this particular editor at least likes my writing and is also the kind of person who would be careful enough with my frail ego (my financial writing ego is a lot tougher), even if she came back and said the book needs a complete re-write (which it does). Sure enough, she was nice about it, but came back with very specific and helpful notes on what I could do to improve the book. Everything she said made complete sense.

I think it was really helpful that I had left the book for a while to get some distance from it. Attachment to the work we have done (made worse by the back-breaking work), can sometimes be a real block to improving it.

So since September I've been letting the novel have some rest and relaxation. And in the meantime I've been rewriting the memoir, with the hope of having a new draft ready to send back to my editor as soon as I can. It's back-breaking work as well. But hopefully it will mean that no one will ever again read it and cry (in a bad way). 

Photo credit: Sharon Drummond #ds139 "Writer's Block" via photopin (license)

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