Monday, August 27, 2012
When to Stop
I would like to say I handle change well. I don't. But does anyone? The past few years of my life have been full of change. I got married, I moved 600 miles from my family, I've lost friends and made new ones. I've been through multiple jobs before deciding to take the chance and write full time. I'll be the first to tell you I'm not an overly talented writer, but I love what I do. While writing often makes me queasy (lots of vomit in this post, obviously), it's a constant for me. If I've had a terrible day I know my characters are there waiting for me. (Bad days for me usually mean torture for my characters, so I'm not sure why they're so supportive.) All that being said, I've been neglecting it lately.
I've been working on a middle grade manuscript for the better part of a year. I wrote the initial 55K draft in 19 days (DON'T DO THIS) and I've lost count of how many times I've rewritten it (I stopped counting at five). I've watched it evolve into something I never thought it could be. And while it's not the greatest or the best... it's mine. I created it. No, this isn't my first book, but it's the book I've spent the most time on. It's a book that has brought me great joy but great pain and frustration as well. I cannot tell you how many times I've cried over this book. Actual sobbing, ugly tears and all. My poor husband doesn't know what to do with me most days except pat my head and bring me a cup of tea, which is about all the spouse of a writer can do. It's the book I'm most proud of.
So when I say I haven't worked on it in weeks, I mean that. Haven't even opened the document, but I think about it every day. I look at it on my desktop and hover my mouse cursor over it. The bile churns in my stomach (again with the vomit) and I quickly scurry off to do something else. Anything else. Cook. Clean. Make up errands that I need to run so I can go to Target. Check the mail five times. Wash my hair. Anything.
Why is this? Why do I keep doing this? This book is my pride and joy. What's wrong with me that I simply don't want to work on it anymore? Have I been working on it too long? Have I put too much into it? Have I lost the "spark" that made the book special to me?
Today while working on a craft project (anything so I don't have to look at the book!) it clicked: I haven't worked on it because there is NOTHING ELSE I CAN DO WITH IT. This bothers me. A lot. I know there are things, obvious things, I need to fix. The thing is, I could work on this book for the rest of my life. Literally. To me it'll never be perfect. To me it'll never be done. To me I'll read it and it'll make me want to lose my lunch (...).
I can't work on it forever. Eventually I have to LET IT GO. Whether or not I query with this book and whether or not it ever sells is a mute point. I'm done. Finished. I wrote a book from beginning to end and edited it until I was blue in the face. I've worked on it until I can't anymore. I don't know that I think of it as my book anymore. Yes it's a book I wrote and will always be mine, but it needs to be someone else's too. It needs legs to walk into the hands of a reluctant eleven year old reader who will pick it up because they they think it's silly. It needs to crawl into the lap of a nine year old reader who is obsessed with the written word. It needs wings to sprout from its spine and to live a life of its own. And that's something I can't give it.
So, little book, go sprout your wings. You've been a great journey this past year, and I'm forever grateful for the wild ride we've been on together. I need to sprout my own wings and find my next path. Dear little book I hope you find your own journey and your own path, because I've already got exciting ideas for my next adventure. And I can't wait.
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