Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fan Factor


This is one of those best/worst days: four, five drafts down the road, sitting down with a printed copy of the new manuscript and actually reading the damn thing.

Sure, I make notes here and there. I'm still trying to iron out the weather and make sure nobody's name changes too much, but that's all little stuff. The literary equivalent of 'mom-cleaning', the saliva-drenched thumb scrubbing vigorously across the child's face in the moments before they're turned loose.

The big stuff is Suction. Does the story draw me in? Can I forget that I wrote this story and just enjoy it? Would I feel good about buying this book? Does this story make me a fan?

You see, I'm my hardest reader. I always see something I might have done differently, maybe a little better. Same with paintings, drawing, everything. Sooner or later you have to let go and move on, but the urge remains. And the urge is to fix those 'horrible' mistakes.

So far, this one is pretty promising. I keep finding myself worried less about my own techniques and more about what's going on with these people, all of them on the cusp of the worst day of their lives.

But rest assured, there's still plenty of technique to worry about...

Little more on that next time!

PS. As always, I have that odd sense of amused wonder: I *know* there were days I HATED writing and was sure I sucked. And days where I LOVED writing and was sure I ROCKED. But reading through the manuscript. I can't find those spots!

Feelings about work are impostors. The work itself is true.

7 comments:

Lana Gramlich said...

Your last sentence there is very Zen.

cs harris said...

When I finally let go of a manuscript and send it in, I'm always hideously disappointed in the way a story turned out, painfully conscious of all the ways I "failed." But then, I'll never be as close to the story as I am at that moment. Even when rereading within six months--say, at the galley stage--the flaws that once loomed large in my imagination are oddly forgotten.

Lisa said...

Very Zen. Congratulations Steve.

Shauna Roberts said...

"Feelings about work are impostors." That is so true! Yet it's so hard to remember at the moment one is thinking "this sucks big time!" or "this is genius!"

Congratulations on getting to this stage of your book.

avery said...

Just make sure not to get in the over-editing rut. I'm there now, and scrabbling to get out. There's always something that can be altered. But, at some point, we have acknowledge we're not making things better, just different. That's the point where we need to let go.

I'm going off to take my own advice, now.

Steve Malley said...

Not too Zen, Lana. After all, the Zen we can write about is not the true Zen.

Candy, for me this first read-through is the first step to some sense of detachment, a reader's perspective.

Lisa, The torch of doubt and chaos, this is what the sage steers by.
Chuang-tzu

Shauna, you're right. Knowing you'll feel different tomorrow is very, *very* little help...

And Avery, I feel your pain. My first novel probably went through twenty-odd edits (with another novel written in between!) before I finally shelved it. Doing so... hurt.

Charles Gramlich said...

There really is a very different mental process going on when you are reading on particular scene than when you are reading a whole work. Little bumps in the road look like landslides when you're up close, but are barely a blip when you're racing the whole highway.