They Call It A “Learning Experience”
I didn’t really believe, back when I first made the decision to e-publish, that this was going to be an easy endeavor. The transition from writer to writer-publisher can’t be a swish of a wand and poof! I’m an author. No, I never had any illusions about the complexity of what I was about to do.
So when my cover artist (whom I love, as a person, because he’s an old friend of mine and just a downright good guy) discovered close to deadline that his art time got shoved into the trunk in favor of carseats, toys, and diaper bags, I understood. “No problem!” said I. “This is just a typical bump in the road. I got this.” Since I trusted my old friend to have me covered without knowing the mystical things that went on behind the scenes, I needed to research what cover art actually entailed. I carved out time to look into pricing, artists, similar styles; I tracked down pictures of objects and atmosphere, just in case they’d help; I interviewed indie artists, and discovered that as in all things, I have expensive taste. In other words, I did my homework. I found an artist running a sale that put her work stoutly in my (extremely limited) budget, and hired her. Progress through adversity! Go me!
And then I entered a hazy, fog-filled, trance-like state, wherein nothing made sense. My world collapsed around my ears in slow motion, only to rebuild in reverse. My beta readers ceased all communication. My proofreader’s plate overfloweth, thanks to my inability to stick to deadlines. My friends hated me. My family eyed me like a super-sensitive bob-omb. I might as well have been a rabid squirrel perpetually seeking phantom acorns, as much as I was doing right. Obviously I wasn’t cut out for a life of success, and I should just give up and never leave my house again. I would spend the rest of my days in a ratty tutu and grungy poet’s shirt, discussing the nuances of crystal- versus photon-powered weapons with a pair of bunny slippers named Murray and Fluffy Joe, ne’er to darken the doorstep of anyone ever again. Crazy, wild-eyed writers (much like crazy, wild-eyed scientists) should stay in their well-outfitted garages where they belong, to keep from infecting the normal hominid population.
Then I got some sleep. A lot of it. (Sleep deprivation is bad. In case you were wondering.)
A month past my self-assigned release date, I found my bootstraps, picked myself up, and sallied forth again. I solicited a few impartial critiques. One of my beta readers got back to me. Good news: my story didn’t suck like a black hole named Hoover! Bad news: It was time for the final edit. The polish pass. The elbow-deep, nit-picky, fine-toothed-comb work that takes a good story and tempers it into a well-written book.
I’ve never edited before.
Okay, so I’ve “edited” before. Macro-edits that shift this scene over there and improve the flow of story arc and makes sure the plotholes get filled in before someone breaks an ankle; those I’ve done. Big picture stuff I have in the bag. In other words, “revision” is my minion. But “edit”? I was that super obnoxious kid in class who dashed off a rough draft in thirty minutes, maybe glanced over it once to check for typos (but probably not), then played video games while everybody else worked their teenaged (and early-twenty-something) fingers to the bone and still got an A. When I actually did the homework, anyway. Sometimes, I didn’t do any work at all, and still managed to finish the semester with a B average. (Yeah, I know. I kind of hate me, too.) There’s value in all that busy work we’re given in high school and college, though. Its name is Discipline. Dedication in the Face of Utter Boredom. Putting in the Time Despite Personal Obstacles. In other words, the stuff that separates the dreamers from the doers. Deep down inside, I know this meticulous kind of micro-edit produces the difference between workable words and professional prose (accidental alliteration, ahoy!). It’s the difference between a “meh” and an “aah!” Since I want my work to be as professional and, well, as good as I can make it, this micro-edit is sort of critical.
Note: If you churned out your school papers and then read them over, made changes, sought opinions and made more changes, you need to know that you have some mad skills. I’m jealous of all those boring, soul-sucking hours you put in. Back then, I was proud of my ability to find the most efficient ratio of work to play that would ensure a passing grade with the least amount of effort. (Okay, I’m still proud of that ability. But we’ll talk deadly sins in another post.) Today, I want to take my teen self out back and whoop her slacker ass. (Except she could totally take me…so never mind that plan.)
I’m still not done editing my 50,000-word novella. Not because I am a black hole named Hoover, but because it’s hard. It’s hard, and I want to do it right. (And I have a near-preschooler at home trying to make peace with the potty. And his bed. And talking. And sharing. And…did I say editing is hard? Editing is a fluffy, scrumptious, chocolate cupcake with strawberry frosting compared to parenting.)
Basically, please don’t think I’m still Slackergirl, able to save half the city from total annihilation at a moment’s notice (because the other half of the city is too boring and crappy to save when there are alternate timelines to explore wherein a writer’s strike didn’t ruin Heroes after the first season).
The 13 Colonies are still forthcoming. They will launch. I just don’t know when that’s gonna be. This year, certainly. This season, most likely. Next month? Maybe.
Stay tuned, good people! It’ll be worth it.
(And after this first one, I should have enough practice to streamline the process in future. Or at least be able to better judge release dates. 😛 )
Am I the only one suddenly craving chocolate cupcakes…?