People are talking a lot these days about the horror of letting go of their manuscripts. It’s established that it’s something you have to learn to do and that it’s difficult, like sending your child off to college.
But I don’t have kids and, even if I did, that metaphor wouldn’t be perfect. It’s close, but it’s not quite there. So Imma tweak it, just to make it absolutely clear how I felt about submitting War of Exiles for the first time.
It was like sending a child off to college completely by your will–and only your will–with the horrible certainty they’ll just be back in 2-3 weeks with a note scotch-taped to their face.
Cringing, you pull it off, open it, and read, “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to stare critically at your child, but it’s not what we’re looking for right now.”
You take a deep breath, hold it as you look up at your child, standing there, saying nothing because it’s a metaphor for a manuscript and manuscripts don’t actually talk.
And then you let out that breath in a sigh. And even if you don’t smoke, it still sounds like you’re a smoker when you rasp, “I knew you’d be back.”
Submitting War of Exiles was more like that.
I hit this strange wall near the end of my third edit when I realized that the entire series needed to be more thoroughly planned out; Exiles is only book one of three, and although some people can probably just jump into a new book with no real plan, I’m neurotic and needed a very definite plot for the rest of the books. This turned into daily brainstorming sessions with only War of Exiles’ epilogue left to edit.
The result of those brainstorming sessions? Finding a new plot twist that drastically changed the second and third books. And also the world itself; it’s easily the biggest endeavor I’ve ever taken as a writer, and although I’m excited by how much I like it, I’m also already exhausted; I wound up spending the last two weeks of February knocking around the one, crucial detail, making sure it worked.
And then it did–I reached the point when the next two books had a direction clear enough for me to finish Exile’s epilogue and do some last minute tweaks. Not hard, in comparison to the weeks of brainstorming.
But almost impossible when I realized it was another step toward that point when no more tweaking could be done. For me, that is the true difficulty. You hear constantly that an artist is never satisfied with their work. It’s true; every time I reread War of Exiles or Memory, I can always find something to improve. And, despite the fact that I’ve caught myself occasionally undoing changes I’ve made on previous edits, I’m still brutal enough on myself to want–to almost need–the luxury to change what I write. To try to make it perfect.
If I was a different man, I would never let go of that luxury.
Instead, I spent my Tuesday packing a suitcase for my metaphor child. One summary of the kid’s entire being? Check. One letter where I quickly talk about how awesome my kid is? Check. Again, to make this metaphor closer to the experience it represents, imagine that synopsis and query letter as a single shirt and a pair of pants that you continually fold, place in the suitcase, yank out again, reexamine, refold, place back in the suitcase. Just over and over–for actual hours–until you’re exhausted. Until a voice inside of you is all, “Just do it! Come on! PAX is like… tomorrow or something! Get packing or I am going without you!” And for a moment you’re tired enough to feel truly threatened by the voice in your head.
So you center yourself on that Send button. Your finger hovers over it and the same voice comes back, pricking your index finger with, “Don’t do it!”
But then the desperate rush–the incoming flood of a single promise: if you don’t send your novel now, you never will.
So before you can argue, you’re all, “I’m doin’ it.” And even if you don’t put shades on after you say it, you still click Send and it’s still the most simultaneously terrifying and gratifying thing you’ve ever done. At once, you shove your metaphor child out the door and you’re all hoping he doesn’t come back while also totally hoping he does.
But either way, you throw your hands up because it’s done. You’ve written the Synopsis and Query Letter. You’ve followed your agent’s guidelines. You attached a fragment of that whole book you wrote. And you sent it all. There’s no taking it back and no more fussing. Unless the response to your query is negative–then you get to go nuts fussing for a very short window before sending it off again, the second time already easier.
Because in the wild multiverse of possible you’s, you’re the one who already hit Send once.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be at PAX East this weekend, but the moment I get back, it’s time to once again do all of the above with Memory. If there’s better timing for this con, I can’t think of it. Thank you for reading and please give me a Like or Follow if you enjoyed.
As always though, no matter what you do, take care and write well.