Monday, November 11, 2013

Saying Good-bye to My Baby

by Jennifer Harlow

Writing an entire book is like running a marathon (not that I ever have or will run one) or finding out you're about to have a baby, where you start off fast and happy, hit a wall of fear, curse the gods for ever giving you the thought of pursuing this madness, but keep going until the end with renewed vigor, or as I like to think of it, "I made it this bloody far, I will not let anything stop me. I'll show them! Ha ha ha!" So you continue on toiling through the backaches, the sleepless nights trying to figure out what happens next, even through the bloating (though that could just be me) until you get to write those two wonderful words, "The End," and make yourself a large, stiff drink. You’ve earned it. And you’re gonna need it because your baby is finally here...and now comes the hard part.

After the first draft comes the first and second edits, each where you stare at every word trying to figure out if it’s the best choice, second guessing yourself a million times along the way, before you give it to your beta testers, who take their sweet time reading and editing. Then you take their suggestions, edit again, send it to your wonderful agent for her to edit, make the corrections she suggests, edit again, and finally it's ready to shop around. And if the publishing gods deign her worthy, the publisher will have you edit it at least twice more. So "The End" is simply the beginning of a grueling process, almost like raising a child, where you will curse your characters for ever entering your imagination or life in the first place at least once or twice. But you love her regardless, and you solider on to do your best to help her grow.

My baby has gone through so many changes I barely recognize her. She has gone through so many changes since I conceived her seven(!) years ago, I barely recognize her. The beginning chapter I started with is completely gone, characters names have changed, and I don't know how many paragraphs have been shortened or expanded. She (like all cars manuscripts are female) has grown from a seed in my mind to an infant as I did the first draft. All her parts were there, her personality, but she needed shaping to become a productive member of book society.

So through the years I did my best to trim her fat, improve her vocabulary, scream at her when she wouldn't listen to me, and make her the best she could be. (Those teenage years...shudder. I almost gave up on her when I was trying to sell her, but we soldiered through). Now, it's as if she is about to graduate college. She's standing on her own two feet, but still needs her Mommy for a few last bits of advice. That's what I'm doing now with the final edit. Never again will I be able to change words, add to characters, plug in narrative holes, etc. She will forever be out in the world as is for other people to judge, enjoy, or just plain hate. She is her own entity now. I just hope my baby will become President instead of a bum. Regardless, I have to let go. I've done all I can to get her to stand on her two feet, and I am proud of her...though I never want to see her again.

Now…onto her siblings.

***
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3 comments:

Simran Saha said...
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Beth Groundwater said...

Congratulations on the birth of your new baby, Jennifer!

Jennifer Harlow said...

Thanks. :)