Wednesday, July 01, 2015

When is it done?

"Finish your novel, because you learn more that way than any other." - James Scott Bell

When do you know a project is finished? I'm not done with the book about running. I continue to layer the mental health thread through it. And I'm not sure even after I finish that if I'll be ready to let my baby fly.

When can you let it go? When is it ready to see more than just the eyes of the few folks you've entrusted to give you feedback. The essays and magazine articles I've written were only completed with a deadline. There could have been another round of edits, another writing practice to find the perfect description, another review by someone else. But I had to let each piece go. An editor was waiting.

I haven't sold any of my books before I've written them so it's different. I'm the one creating the deadline and it hasn't worked that well. I'm a critical critic, an evil critic even. The product is never good enough. Now honestly, the previous book-length projects haven't been finished, not even the one about my father that I worked on for a decade. The shape is still not there. It might be good enough for someone else, but it's not enough for me.

That's the dilemma. How do I get it to a place where it's ready for me to let it go? Perhaps it would be easier if I did have an agent or an editor. Perhaps then I would accept that person's judgment and say, "They say it's done, so it must be done." But I'm not sure if even that will soothe my perfectionistic heart. There is so much space between the idea that's in the mind and the black and white squiggles on the page. A vast distance, that.

What's a writer to do? For today, I will continue to work. And when it feels right inside of me, I'll start sending it off to agents. I might have to ask for help letting go. We'll do some ritual. We'll chant or do an incantation. Then we'll burn a symbolic copy of the manuscript and toast it with decaf lattes.

How do you let a manuscript go -- other than by abandoning it? This is an area where I really need to grow!

2 comments:

B. WHITTINGTON said...

I would like to say I have the answer to your dilemma. But I don't. I've followed your posts off and on for a long while and I recall the manuscript you were writing about your dad. I'd like to see you give it the life of publication.
Maybe you're made the subconscious decision not to offer your books to the public. By keeping them under lock and key you are in complete control of them. My problem isn't letting go although I can work the very life out of a story by rewriting. My problem is editing. Sticking with a story after that first second third fourth draft when I need to do it yet again. I grow weary and want to start another project. Hope you find a solution to letting your babies grow up and out into the big wide world of readers.

Nita said...

B - I have some friends who are helping me push the thing out into the world somewhat like midwives help with babies! They remind me that it doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to get out there.