A few weeks ago, I wrote about how hard it’s been to be patient through the publishing process, how slowly everything seems to be moving, how frustrating that pace has been at times. You can read that post here.
Things look a little different to me now, because I just had my first phone conversation with someone from my publisher a few days ago. Up until now, all our communication had been done via email. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve been very happy about that. I love communicating via the written/typed word. I am much less excited about actually speaking to people. I will very gladly speak on the phone with someone in a pastoral capacity, but for personal things? Ehhh…I’d really rather use email or text.
(Quick sidebar: Email is preferred over text, and the main reason for that is that I am an email hoarder. I have emails saved on my computer since 1996. Pretty much every email I’ve ever sent or received since then — at least, every email of substance. (I don’t keep mass mailings from companies and so forth.) My mail folder on my computer is 564 MB, over half a gig of emails. Most of these are just simple text, each of which weighs about, what, a few KB or so? So do the math, and that’s an awful lot of email.)
Anyway, this conversation was good. Boyle & Dalton is a small publisher, so the person who called me was actually the CEO of the company. We spoke for forty-five minutes or so about the book, about the process, about what I should expect, and what I can be doing now as I still wait. I am grateful that she called me, and I am looking forward to our next call (already scheduled).
So I thought it might be constructive to blog about this process as it goes on. Tell you where I am, what I’m doing, how I’m feeling. Perhaps somebody reading this will find it helpful if they are trying to publish a book themselves. Perhaps it will be interesting reading. Perhaps it will drum up enthusiasm (and thus sales) for Darkwater. And perhaps, if nothing else, it will be a way for me to process my own emotions, and keep in practice at writing.
So where am I now in the process? I am awaiting the completion of the first of two developmental edits. This means that an editor is working through my manuscript, looking for big picture things. Flow. Inconsistencies. Restructuring. When he has finished this edit, he will send me two files: 1) my manuscript, with marginal notes; and 2) a chapter-by-chapter description of his suggested changes. I will also have a chance to speak to him via phone or “Zoom” (whatever that is — I guess it’s the new Skype or something). Then I’ll have a major task ahead of me: take in all the suggestions and do a rewrite. This might take a while; it won’t be a weekend project.
The CEO told me that I am already scheduled for a second developmental edit after the first is complete. And I’ll be honest — that upsets me a little bit. I thought my book was tight already. I thought I had really worked it into shape myself before submitting it. And now it sounds like they could tell from the get-go that not only does it need significant work, but even when that work is done, it will still need significant work. But I have to remember — I have never written for publication before. As much as I think I’m a good writer, that doesn’t mean my writing is ready for prime-time. And beyond that, I need to remember that a developmental editor isn’t a ghostwriter — he won’t be rewriting the book for me. Rather, he will be telling me what I can do to make it better. Which means I am still going to be the author. And in the process of these rewrites, I will learn more about what makes books marketable, what makes them work. It also means that those who first read my manuscript at Boyle & Dalton saw potential in it. Even if they felt it was rough around the edges, they believed that I could write something that they would proudly publish. I just need some coaching to get to the finish line.
I’m so anxious about these notes I’m going to receive, though. I am so scared of seeing my hard work graded and judged like this. Particularly because of the subject matter. This isn’t a book I’m writing about the history of Doctor Who, or the joys of letterboxing in southeastern Pennsylvania (each of which I do have some expertise on). This is a memoir, a vulnerable, brutally honest memoir of the ongoing fight in my head between the voice of God and the Dark Voice. And I’m scared that I’ll interpret these notes as judgment on my character, on my story, on my life.
So, you see that I’m anxious about two things right now: I’m worried that I’m not a good enough writer (hence the two developmental edits), and I’m worried that my life hasn’t been worth it. These worries are intertwined, my life and my writing, just like the book itself is like a double helix of life and writing — in a way, my life is my writing and my writing is my life, and both become my DNA. And both are so stricken with shadows from the Dark Voice telling me, “You’re just not good enough.”
So it is good to write this here. And it will be good to reflect here once the edit notes arrive. I need to write to keep practicing my writing. And I need to write to keep living. They’re not the same, but they’re inseparable.