For those of you who have been tracking with me, I’ve been working on my third novel for several years now.
My first manuscript was never published—and for good reason. The second became Like Moonlight at Low Tide. And the third, a story about a group of five kids who grow up together, has been in the works since 2012. Yes, really, since 2012 — the year of “Gangman Style” and “The Avengers” premier (and I first began the idea even before then).
The process of writing this story has taught me about how great the distance is between my head and my heart and the page. Somewhere, the wonderful things in my mind get lost on the way to the keyboard. And on good days, new things turn up in words and scenes that I didn’t know I could imagine.
It’s a comfort to know that even the best writers experience the same thing.
Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to his Russian translator, said:
“…Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done—so I do it. And it makes me happy when I do it well.”
After a lot of plot wrestling and literary torture, I finally got my manuscript to a place where I asked myself if I was ready for the next step. (The next step is to place the full manuscript in the hands of other readers.)
My writer’s heart had a very clear answer to that question: No.
But here’s the thing about falling in love with a story. I love it so much that I know that I can no longer help it. My manuscript has gotten as far as it can in my hands. And so, I’m releasing it. There’s a wonderous thing that happens when a writer and a reader get together. The work becomes something else, something even better.
As I write this post, my hard-fought, over-worked manuscript is in the hands of an international group of very generous beta readers. Beta readers are angels for a writer. They read your work and give you feedback—direct, clear, and thought provoking. They’re also not supposed to be your closest friends, or your mom, or anyone who worries how you’ll react.
My beta readers are a mix of writing colleagues, generous volunteers, and (ok, ok) a few close friends. By mid-May, I’ll have their feedback—including anonymous insights I’m gathering over survey monkey. And then—well, we’ll all see where the story goes next.
I look forward to sharing the journey along the way. Whatever I think, whatever I feel–the story is no longer just mine.