After a rough start, I had a pretty productive week. I’m well past the halfway point on third draft revisions and, barring any acts of God, I’m hoping to have a completed third draft by the end of June. At which point I plan to take a full six weeks off from this book and work on something else.
I’ll need to put some distance between my brain and this novel before I tackle the fourth, and hopefully final, revision. By the end of this third draft, I’ll have made all the structural decisions and polished the prose to the best of my ability, so the fourth draft is really just a final proofread. Then I hope to cajole a couple of brave readers (called betas) to take a stab at the entire manuscript and tell me what they think.
Assuming no massive changes need to be made, I’d like to start my search for a literary agent in September. I’ll likely spend my six weeks off this summer writing short stories (ha, I say that now, but so far I haven’t been able to write a decent short story to save my life—it’s a different animal). I’ll also be researching and compiling a list of the agents I plan to query. Oh, and I also have to write an amazingly brilliant query letter. Almost forgot about that.
Can I be honest and say that I’m terrified to finish this book? Right now, as tedious as it feels most days to be slogging through revision after revision, there’s comfort and safety in knowing that it’s not finished, that I can still improve it, and that nobody has to look at it just yet.
Finishing the book means I’m going to have to put it out there. Which is so scary that when I let myself think about it (like I am right now), I feel like I want to throw up. Can you imagine standing naked in front of a room full of strangers whose sole job is to judge how you look, NAKED? That’s how it feels to let people read my work. I’ve been working on this novel every day for the past ten months. Good or bad, I’ve poured my heart and soul into this book and it will kill me if, in the end, people think it stinks.
And the thing is, they will. I know there are many, many rejections to come. Statistically, the odds are stacked against me that I’ll ever get this book published. I’m not being pessimistic, I’m being realistic, and my eyes are wide open. I’m a new, unpublished, unknown writer. I don’t have an MFA. I’ll be banking on the strength of my query to get the agent to read my manuscript (out of the hundreds of queries each agent gets every month), and I’ll be banking on the strength of my manuscript to land that agent. And then I’ll then be banking on the expertise of that agent to sell it. If it even gets that far.
Oh so many ways to fail in this process. And it’s hard to imagine failing at something I want so much. The fear is almost paralyzing.
Almost. Not quite.
Those who know me best know I’ve always been a chick who takes risks. I’ve never been scared to double down or go all in. And I’m good at getting back up after I’ve fallen (and I’ve fallen a lot). That’s one of my strengths.
Thank God for that.