I could have never predicted it. About two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was starting to edit the fourth draft of my novel, however, I was filled with great trepidation. I was expecting at least another two or three months more of work. But to my surprise, I finished this revision very quickly. Despite my initial misgivings when re-reading the previous draft, most of the really hard work must have already been done, though it was hidden. The path was there, marked in purple crayon; what I had to do was chop down the brush along the way so I could see the markings. Afterwards, I cleared out the rocks in the way, filled in the ruts, and paved over the dirt walkway. By hacking away at all the excess in the first few chapters, I had allowed the path to reveal itself.
The next few steps are this: leave it alone for two weeks, and then do a quick edit. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that some of the passages that I thought I had fixed were actually better in prior edits. But now that I know how this path curves, and where it will end up, I can go back to past versions and pick out the best passages without being afraid of getting lost.
After the quick edit, I’m planning to send the manuscript out to a few people whose judgment I trust. Not close friends or family; it’s too early for that now. I’ll send it to people whose writing expertise I trust, and who have a similar sensibility to my own. I’d like them to provide feedback in a variety of ways, from simple proofing to pointing out structural issues and advice on improving what’s there.
I’ve had such a wonderful time doing this. I’ve really learned so much about writing, and I see how much more there still is to learn. Like all of the arts, it’s a life-long pursuit –no one person can visit every town and city on the map. We get to visit the places we can while we are on this planet, and it’s always wonderful when you can visit someplace new. Paradoxically, knowing that the universe is infinite makes the pursuit of art less, not more, scary. When you accept that the universe is infinite; and that art is long and life is short; then you understand that you–and every other writer and artist on the planet–are only able to master a piece of all there is to know. But the freeing thing is that the piece that you master will be different from anyone else’s piece. In that knowledge there is freedom, and rest. Because of each artist’s inherent uniqueness, if you are honest and diligent, no one else will have explored exactly the same nooks and crannies as yourself. That’s what you bring to the table. You can give yourself permission to go down the next road.
It’s going to be hard to let go of these characters that I’ve lived with this long. I don’t know how they grew. It was brush stroke by brush stroke, and now they have taken a life of their own. I am a proud parent. Maybe I have a child only a father could love. Perhaps. Should I leave this whole manuscript alone for a year and then go back to it? It probably would benefit. But then it’s like real life. It’s never a good time; you’re never prepared enough; the parents are never ready enough to have a child.
So, for all intents and purposes the book has been born. It has life in it. It may get a new set of clothes, or I may need to give it a haircut and a manicure, maybe some nail polish and a dye job, but basically, fundamentally, the book has arrived. I’m a daddy.