A few days ago a family member offered to read my new manuscript. It was a very “Alice In Wonderland” moment. I damn near said “Whooo Are YOU?” and everything, just like the caterpillar asks Alice. I turned my face to the right, in utter mortification.
“I can be objective.” was their argument. Um, I’d rather you not be.
Then they asked “Don’t you have anyone you trust who you would want to read it and give you their honest opinion?” I said no. I wasn’t kidding. “How about your best friend?” My best friend Marion is not a big reader, mostly because she reads at work all week long and can’t stand it when she’s on her own time, which is completely understandable. I could write the worst crap and she’d tell me it was fantastic. Not that I’ve EVER written crap in the 20+ years she & I have been friends, but you get my drift. Bestie #2 suffers from Fibromyalgia with terrible brain fog, so asking her to read 100,000 words, or more, would be akin to asking her to lift a crate of dynamite over her head while setting a match to it.
I then had my writer’s moment of realizing I have no Beta Readers. None whatsoever. And in truth? I don’t really trust anyone with my work. As if it’s been a well-kept secret; I’m a fucking control freak. However, experience has taught me to not only protect my work fiercely, but NEVER to hand it over to someone I haven’t thoroughly vetted.
A friend isn’t always the right person to ask. If they don’t want to hurt your feelings, they’re not going to be 100% honest. As the person “most likely to be intimidating”, I don’t think a single friend of mine would say boo to me when it comes to my work. A few would be honored to read it, and others? Not so much. It’s putting pressure on someone. Plus, most people who aren’t writers themselves can’t point out issues. As an editor, I can point out issues in every single thing I look at that is written, from a restaurant menu to a real estate flyer. I self-correct as people speak; I’m THAT bad.
I don’t worry that what I’ve written isn’t good. I know it is. However, it’s not finished. Until you know the story is done, why would you say “Here, can you read this unfinished manuscript?” Seriously?!
Yesterday I hit 91,000 words on the umpteenth rewrite. The decision to either make this story a one-shot deal (which is what I originally intended) or to turn it into 2-3 books, is an ever-present issue. The longer it gets, the more you have to realize it has branch-out potential. The characters are strong, interesting, and I’d hate to lose them. They’re lighter than what I normally write. Freer. More enjoyable because they’re easier to tap into. It’s a lot like knowing your hands, or your own heart. These characters are pieces of me in a very different way, and I am protective of them.
One day, I will have to let them fly out into the world and be judged. That day is NOT today, in their current state. They need time to blossom and flourish, and that’s normal. I refuse to feel pressured to complete something when I know in my bones that it’s not done. While I was able to get past that feeling of being stuck around page twenty-five, I no longer feel that way any more. I do, however, feel like the story needs a break from me looking at it fifty times a day. Progress does not occur when you psychoanalyze and criticize your own body of work for ten hours, or more, each day. That’s not productive.
So instead of staying up until 3:30 in the morning writing, which I’ve been doing for weeks and weeks, I went to bed early last night and actually got under six hours of sleep (which is the new norm post-Spring Forward). If I hadn’t hurt a toe in my sleep (No, I have NO idea how I did it. I just know it hurts and I had to take care of it immediately.) and been searching for the Neosporin, thus letting Kitten know that Mommy is awake because I was rummaging around in the dark, I might still be asleep. Instead, her Majesty thinks it’s breakfast time. It’s not. I went into the kitchen and food bowls are still filled, water bowl is good, and breakfast isn’t until about 8:30 a.m. If she keeps being aggressive, I may have to feed them earlier, but this usually results in the death stare at 3:00 in the afternoon while I’m trying to work. Once you’ve got two sets of eyes on you, it’s harder to say “You have another hour before you’re getting fed.” They’re not being starved. I actually just switched them over to a new grain-free food this weekend. I do think she wants attention because the rain is coming down hard and it makes her nervous, but mostly, I know my cat. She’s all about the food. LOL.
Today I feel like I can look at the manuscript with fresher eyes. I can get the Lexicon prepared for the beginning of the book and maybe do a few other things that until recently, I just haven’t had the head for.
The freedom of working with personal deadlines, instead of rigid ones, it that I’m answering to myself. I’ve already achieved a LOT by writing this multiple times, and writing three different alternatives to the beginning of the story. I’m not patting myself on the back, but I’m not sitting here in shame, either.
If the average reader understood how long it takes for a quality book to be written, edited, and published, they’d be shocked. An author friend of mine, who is currently dealing with copyright infringement lawsuit (someone stole her work and didn’t credit her for it), is paid fifty cents (U.S.) for every book sold. She’s a very interesting writer, spiritual, thought-provoking, and her take-home is fifty cents per book. Years worth of work put into each book she writes to share with the world, and that’s the paycheck. I was BEYOND insulted for her. And yet, this is often the norm. If she sells 20,000 books, her take-home is $10,000, before taxes. After taxes, it’s a grave insult, but this is such a common theme. It’s why so many people have turned away from traditional publishing and have started self-publishing. And yet, most self-published titles (not all, just most) are poorly edited, riddled with mistakes and major errors, and read like first drafts that were rushed. So when a close friend asked if I thought my manuscript would sell “this month”, I had to explain to her that it is a lengthy, oftentimes frustrating process to get anything sold.
Moreover, I have committed myself to writing a spec piece on Chronic Pain disorders and actual pain patients’ experiences from diagnosis to now. I will be interviewing people by phone and e-mail to get their stories into a series of articles. I write this in the hope that our voices will be heard, but I’m also not selling it for pennies on the dollar, either. It’s an important story that needs to be told, and who better than a pain patient to tell the story? People are reading, and believing, an awful lot of bullshit produced by the media on this particular subject. Patients are outraged, and yet, few of them are willing to stand up and speak up. Venting on message boards and in groups is a waste of time, but participating in something bigger? That’s how you get the right people to listen. If any reader would like to be a part of this, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know you’d like your story told. I will be changing names for those who aren’t entirely comfortable with their business being put out there for the world,
Today is a brand new day. There’s work to be done, laundry to be washed, phone calls to be made, but if anyone is going to be reading my work this week, it’s gonna be me.
copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.