Saturday, May 21, 2016

It's All About the Process

Ah, the iceberg photo. I’ve always thought it was a cute little meme. Then I slammed into it head first. The initial pain was excruciating, but the ride has been wild, tumultuous and highly enlightening ever since. It’s all about the process…over time…

A few years back, I wrote and self-published a novella, If the Silver Slippers Fit. At that time, the novella was a huge achievement on a variety of levels, a real feather in my cap. But not to stay in one place too long, I was soon onto the second Ruby Hood.
Nearly two years later, I wrote the sequel to the novella, If the Sapphire Slippers Fit. Time, characters and adventures had passed, and the new story spun its own tale. Sapphires was fresh and so much fun to write. Finally, the rough copy was complete and ready for an editor, another feather in my cap. With any luck, I’d have this ready for publication by the fall.

To make sure there was continuity in the story, the editor read the first installment as well as the second, then asked if she could quickly edit the first one. On cloud nine and revealing in my own accomplishment, I readily agreed, even at $45/hour. After a week, the editor sent me an email, letting me know she was done with the first story and would like to meet to discuss the notes. Anxious to move ahead to the sequel (the real reason I’d hired her), I agreed. Everything was going according to plan.

Then I got the invoice. First, my heart palpitated then sank to the pit of my stomach. My entire editing budget for both books was blown…in one shot…on a stupid little novella that was already published! I was devastated, and now I didn’t have enough money to edit Sapphires. This was NOT the plan! What had gone wrong? To start, I had grossly overestimated the quality of my work, and underestimated the time needed to fix my errors. When the editor used the word ‘quickly’, I should’ve asked what that meant, but the time for rehashing mistakes was over. Suddenly, nothing else mattered except getting my hands on those very expensive edits. Deep down I couldn’t help but think…those edits had better be written in gold and a bit of blood.

The night before the meeting, I reread my story. While I read, I was struck by the mediocrity of the novella. Certainly not what NYT bestsellers are made of.  With an open and very intrigued mind, I walked into the coffee shop the following day. I spent several hours with the editor, poring over 22 pages of edits. First, she presented the plethora of problems, errors, flaws and weaknesses that riddled the story. Some I had caught, but there were more…lots more. I listened…to everything she said, while I jotted notes and tried to keep up with my own inadequacies. Halfway through, I was feeling like a total loser but hoping there was a silver lining to this very gray cloud. And there was. We spent the rest of the time discussing a variety of ideas, solutions and possible fixes for this…MESSS. At the end I thanked her, but my mind swirled with utter chaos. She had ripped my story apart and destroyed my comfort zone. Just a week before, I had a very different plan for my summer writing. Putting my latest WIP, Modified, on the back burner to REWRITE an already published book was NOT part of the plan. BUT everything had changed. My editor had made me think about Silver Slippers from a totally different perspective, and I couldn’t undue that.

At this point, I had to choices: wallow or rebuild. While pity parties have their time and place, they’re no place to live, or spend a precious summer, so #onward to rebuilding it was. With my big girl pants firmly in place, I’ve admitted defeat and failure. I’ve unpublished the novella and quite literally gone back to the drawing board.

Since then, I’ve spent my time creating an entire world…my vision of the Enchanted Realm of Oz. I have notes, character maps, notes, sub plots, drawings, notes, sketches, big plot twists, a brilliant AH-HA moment for the reader, and more notes. I’m 17,000 words into it and nowhere near the end, still building the world and creating character layers. It has completely consumed me. At certain times, I feel overwhelmed by the chaos in my head, but the more it churns the clearer it becomes. I’ve never written at this level. The growth throughout the entire process simply amazes me, both as a writer and a human being. The craziest part? My current WIP is titleless. For today, this massive reconstruction is known as Silver, If the Slippers Fit (book 1). Its definitive title will come…it’s all part of the process. Personally, I can’t wait to see where this Oz iceberg leads…over time…

1 comment:

  1. This is incredible insight...humbling, yet inspirational. You have brought out into the open what i am sure most authors have experienced at one point or another!