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I sent my revised manuscript to the agent on Sunday.
1000 lbs off my shoulders.
And Monday morning I faced a new unknown…
What comes next.
I still had blog posts and social media stuff to do.
But this was a week without drafting or revising. A week off from novel writing.
So I started with shaving my legs and taking out the garbage.
Things I neglected during my writing.
I walked the dog.
I called all the doctors I needed to make appointments with.
I scheduled a 4-day trip to NY to see them and my friends.
And I finally deleted all the junk in my old email account.
Then I got to work. Because I can’t not work.
I started drafting a list of editors and agents to query when I finish revising my next book, a YA fantasy.
Prep work. Groundwork for the next novel.
Because it is always good to be prepared.
And though the waiting is hard, I’m going to do what I always do: keep moving forward.
I’ve read that there are five stages to grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I think these apply to the many forms of death we encounter in life. Not just the physical, but the emotional and psychological deaths. The death of one’s hopes, one’s beliefs, one’s dreams.
But today, I want to talk about the death of one’s perceptions. Specifically as they relate to a novel.
We are all told once we finish and polish our manuscript we should put it through critique groups and get feedback on it.
But most of us are not ready yet. And even when we are ready, it’s a painful process.
We think this manuscript is perfect. We’ve improved it as much as we can, so in our eyes it is.
Then the feedback comes. People telling us what is wrong, not working, confusing, what needs to be better developed, what should be cut.
And that is when the grieving process kicks in.
It’s the death of our initial perception of our work. Our belief that the book is ready to be published.
Every time I get feedback, I go through these stages. Even when I know the book is a draft and needs work. It’s still my best draft.
Denial: This is where I decide the other person’s opinion doesn’t matter. That they are wrong. This usually lasts 3-24 hours.
Anger: This is where I look at the feedback again and feel like they are picking on me. This is usually 4-12 hours.
Bargaining: This is where I think maybe this feedback has some validity. Okay, I’ll try some of these changes, but I still think half of them are dead wrong. 10-24 hours.
Depression: This is where I realize many of the comments are valid and I see how much work is in front of me. This can last a day to a week.
Acceptance: This is where I remind myself I want to write the best book I can. And this feedback will get me there. I start making the changes and I see how much they help. And I accept the death of my belief that the manuscript was good as I work to make it better.
How do you feel about feedback? How do you process it?
I’ve been working on the first 500 words of my YA novel in preparation for the writer’s roundtable critique day at the Winter SCBWI conference Jan 27-29. These two pages have taken up over a week of my writing life.
I wasn’t unhappy with my beginning. It was the umpteenth version of it. And it garnered requests for the full. But no offers of representation.
No harm in trying something new since I’d have a day’s worth of captive audience at the conference.
But I really liked that beginning. It was the best beginning I’d written to date.
So I thought, let’s make it more YA-ey. Let’s talk about the clicks in high school.
I warmed to the idea and reworked the first two pages. I got deeper into my protagonist’s head. Her voice came through so much more. I didn’t say she’s an outsider, but I showed it.
I was super excited after 2 days of laboring over my words.
And then I read it to my dad.
Then he says, “I’m not connecting with it. Too kiddish.”
Okay that was what I was going for. But it gives me pause.
I read it to mom.
She says, “I hate it.”
Double pause. Maybe I did something wrong.
Wasted two days going down the wrong path.
So the next day, I thought about it. Didn’t touch the keyboard. Read a paper version.
Since the book isn’t really about high school, it was not a good idea to open with high school clicks.
But that left me with zero ideas of how to revise it.
I ruminated over it for a day. Then I decided to focus on the mystery. Play it up more. And I changed the opening again. But this time when I got stuck, I pulled stuff out of the bad revision. Because even though the concept didn’t work, the execution rocked.
There were some beautiful lines there. Cool ideas I could tweak. So I leveraged the first rewrite to get to the second.
Then I read the new one to my mom.
She says, “I love it.”
My beta reader read both and said he loved the new one best, although the first one was well written. And he could see how the first version gave birth to the second.
I kinda knew I was going down the wrong road with the clicks, but I didn’t have another idea. However, movement always feels better than inertia. Even when you’re going the wrong way. Rather than sit in my car thinking about where to go, I followed it to the end.
And it led me to a better idea. The idea I would run with and keep.
Every time you toss out an idea and lose several pages of work and lambaste yourself for wasting time, keep in mind that tossed out idea might have been the only way to get to the next idea. The one that was for keeps.