Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Writing and rewriting--just when you think it's finished, it's not!

Remember when I used to post every week?
Wait. It was at least twice a week for a while there. 

Maybe I'll get back to that sometime. Not right now. Nope, this is the time of immersion in what I like to refer to as "the tumultuous year leading up to the Civil War". Catchy, right? Well, that's where I've been for the past two weeks, with Sidney (he's my protagonist) and his friends and family. It's been fun. But when I opened up that can of worms document, I didn't realize I'd be so deeply immersed for so long. I thought it would probably be a quick read-through with a few tweaks here and there. I was so wrong.
Photo Credit: © Budda | Dreamstime.com
Part of it is my perfectionism. The same drive that brings me to shame over spelling enunciate "annunciate," also pushes me to check and recheck every historical fact in my novel, to rewrite the slightly awkward exchanges, to dive headfirst once again into the lore of the Underground Railroad, to examine whether the African American characters in my book are developed enough and worry over whether this novel will be criticized like Kathryn Stockett's. (Yes, I know how ridiculously vain that last statement is--but it's possible, right? I mean, everybody starts somewhere!) And then I wasted used a whole 225 pages of paper printing out the entire manuscript--something I haven't done in years--so that I could read the whole thing through again because I remember from writing papers in college that you really catch a lot more mistakes if you look at it on actual paper. And what do you know, I was right! I also made a timeline and read a lot of the book aloud to myself. My nine-year-old niece can attest to the fact that not only was I reading aloud to myself, I continued talking to myself about my characters even as I accompanied her to unlock Camilla's bedroom door. (I can write when the kids are home, but it sometimes helps if somebody's there to distract them.) Perhaps someday my niece will tell this story to her children when she's trying to convince them not to become any kind of artist because it really does drive you insane! 

And with all of that, I somehow know it still isn't perfect. It can't be perfect. My childhood art teacher, Sue Hand, always gave her students the pronouncement "Sign it!" when a painting was finished. But it being finished doesn't mean there isn't more you could do to it. My favorite college professor, Dr. Wallace, used to talk about the same idea in regard to writing papers. It wasn't ever really finished. You just had to turn it in. You could always make it even better if you had the chance. 

So I'm saying my book is finished. But I know even after I've approved the galleys, when I look at the published copy, I will see something I could have somehow made better. It's never perfect. It's never finished. I'm sure some a lot of readers will find fault. I hope more of them will embrace, enjoy, and fall in love as I have.   

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