Thursday, October 9, 2014

Writing is like marriage, and books are like babies: Part 3

The conclusion of a three-part story.
The end of the pregnancy is often the hardest part, because you have to reach your goal. You’ve made it to the climax, put the final hours of labor into making your manuscript truly your own. But you still have to make it end at a good place, there’s no taking the easy way out or quitting. With a few groans and grunts of displeasure as you make yourself finish it, you at last give birth to your completed manuscript. Congratulations, you’re a mother now.

To my surprise, Dragon’s Destiny came months before its due date, and was complete by the end of June. But the work had only just begun.

You see, once you finish a novel, you have a brand-new baby and nothing else matters. At this point, you are so happy that you think it is without flaw. It’s beautiful just the way it is, and you want to show it to the world.

But there’s a problem. The world doesn’t see what you see in your baby. Sure, they might think he’s cute. But when it’s time to send your book to an editor, it’s like handing him over to the babysitter. The babysitter will know your child better than you ever could in that she’ll know how it performs when you’re not there. She knows what people will say when they meet your child, and how they will take to it. And you know what? Children are a lot of work.

Now you know what your child’s flaws are. He isn’t perfect, as you thought him to be. In parts, he isn’t even cute but more like a terrible monster. You’ll try to edit the plot, perfect the character, and he will stubbornly refuse to cooperate. Fed up with it, you’ll try to lock him up in his room for time-out.

This doesn’t work for long, as you might imagine. The book begins screaming at you from every cranny of your mind, telling you he’s still there and he isn’t going away so you’d better commit. You realize that you have to go back to editing. Like childrearing, it doesn’t just go away. And at times, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Sure enough, your book hits puberty. You’ve put some effort into it, and now it’s time for the book to make an impression on your beta readers. You’re going to get some bad feedback. You’re going to realize that despite your hardest efforts, the book still has some problems, even some pretty major ones. It’s not over yet.

Fast-forward a few weeks or months later, and your book is finally mature. It’s ready for publishing, ready to leave the safety and comfort of home and go out into the wider world. You won’t know everything people are saying about your book, but you hope you’ve made all the right choices along the way. It’s time to let go.

So it was with Dragon’s Destiny, and by July 7, 2014, it was ready to face the world with a roar. OK, maybe more of a squeak. I know it isn’t perfect – great literature takes decades. I know there is at least one typo in there that somehow all of my proofreaders overlooked. And there are some formatting issues that I would love to change.

But you know what? Nobody’s perfect, and the same goes for books. As long as he is a likeable read to everyone who meets him, that’s just fine with me. And even so, it’s not set in stone. There is always time for change.

So here I am. My novel is a self-published work, which took a lot of time and effort to finish over the course of a year. I got a lot of help by using my aunt for my cover artist and another friend for my graphic designer. There are many others who helped me in the process that I would love to name, but I think I gave most of them credit in my acknowledgements.

What’s more, I’ve changed my mind about self-publishing. Real authors write books, and people read them. A publishing company is optional, and saves you a lot of work in the long-term. Still, I think it’s kind of like deciding whether to send your kid to public school, or try homeschooling him yourself. A publishing company, more specifically an editor, might try and change your book into something it’s not by forcing it into a mold. I’m not saying I’m against public school, but there are certainly trade-offs. Only the parent can decide whether it’s worth it.

My next project is Shifter, which I wrote entirely in National Novel Writing Month, November 2013 (thanks to my new computer). I’m well on my way into the editing process, and I’ve set up some goals and deadlines to have it ready by New Year’s Day, 2015. I am thinking of finding an agent this time and submitting to a publisher, because I often find I’m too busy to market my book. And who knows? Maybe they’ll like it, maybe not. Either way, I know that I put in my best efforts, and that some of my fans are already eager to read it.

I have come to the end of this essay, but I assure you that it isn’t the end of my story. I don’t know how long that will be, or where it will go, but I will do my best to stick with it. Writing is still a huge part of who I am. There are still plenty of ideas I’ve mulled around to make into future book-children.
In the meantime, I hope my family, friends and fans will continue to encourage me by reading what I have to say once I put it out there.

So for now, good luck and best wishes to all. I will conclude with a quote from a children’s film called The Dark Crystal. In the movie, one character asks the other, “What is writing?” to which the other responds, “Words that stay.” That is what I’ve hoped to accomplish. I want these words to stay.

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