Main Entry: purge
Part of Speech: verb
Synonyms: absolve, cleanse, clear, eliminate, erase, exculpate, exonerate, exterminate, liquidate, oust, purify, remove, rid, unload
Last year at this time, I was finishing my almost-final draft of the manuscript formerly known as Unbounded. (Title talks, by the way, have been tabled until January.) So much has happened between now and then; yes, the story sold, but there were a lot of necessary renovations made to my mindset as well. Honestly, I was pretty naive about how things worked on this side of the publishing curtain. This is pretty close to what I thought: publisher buys book, author glories in sale, has her photo taken and then waits until the day the book comes out in the stores to sign autographs!
Nope. Not quite. At least not in this writer’s experience.
How it really works is this: You sell your book and then you work with your new editor to make it really shine. Key word here is WORK. It is work. Hard work. I’ve learned a lot since this summer, when my deal came in. My editor pushed me to new levels, and frankly, I pushed myself just as hard if not harder. Now that the story is truly finished except for the copy-editing, I think we both believe that we have a winning product on our hands.
Here are a few of the revelations I’ve had:
* You’ll never be 100% satisfied. Don’t think a contract means that your work is perfect the way it is, or that your editor thinks so, or that you should think so. First off, no work is every perfect. Ever. Everything can be improved. My editor asked smart questions that made me rethink some significant parts of the story, and I made big changes because of them. Hard work. But time well spent. I’m very certain that if you gave me thirty seconds with my manuscript right now, I’d find a red pen and mark up at least five things. It’s just the nature of the beast.
* “Commerce meets art” sometimes means that art must bend. I don’t like this lesson, but it’s an important one all the same. Pretty words can be confusing. Abstract ideas that make perfect sense to you might have to hit the floor in order for your work to be understood by the public at large. Bend where you can.
* Never, never, never get too attached to a title. While I’ll always love my old title of six years, Unbounded, it’s time to let that go; industry buyers say it conjures confusing imagery. Obviously you’ll want your work to sell, first and foremost. Don’t become too attached to your title and it won’t bother you if this becomes an issue with your script.
* Flexibility is key. Aside from what I mentioned above, you also have to be willing to bend to the whims of the industry. Schedules are variable. Things are forgotten. Items are lost in the mail. There are delays. Don’t take any of it personally.
* It’s okay to know things going in. Me, I’m superstitious to a fault about some things. I didn’t want to know too much about the publishing industry–like what to expect in a contract or what really happens once you have a deal–because I felt it would jinx me. Yeah, yeah, stupid. My agent deserves a medal for putting up with my profound ignorance. Be curious. Become enlightened. Your future agent and editor will thank you later.
* Take time for yourself. I’ve always had a problem with balance, and frankly it became worse than ever after the book deal this summer. I gave a lot of myself to my edits, and too many other things fell by the wayside. I’ve missed my son’s soccer games. I’ve missed girl-time lunches with my darling D. Dates with my hubby? Self care? Sleep? Exercise? Hah! Shortly after I turned in the final copy of my ms, just before Thanksgiving, I went for a massage. So needed. In the future, I’m going to build Me Time into my schedule–no matter how rigorous that schedule gets–because no one’s going to fill my gas tank for me, and not even the sweet blush of the book deal is enough to fuel a smile indefinitely.
* Let go. Once you’ve done your very, very best, it’s time to let go of the manuscript. I’m there, finally. My husband has a ritual that I might adopt: write something meaningful on a small piece of paper and tie it to a balloon, then release it. Others burn things. I’ve put things away. Two full shelves in my office were dedicated to my manuscript. Old drafts. Critiquers’ copies with notes. Scads of research clippings and printouts and maps. Scratch pads filled with revelations and possibilities and even interviews. Scene fragments. Killed darlings. Rejections. Two full shelves. This past weekend, I cleared those shelves and put everything related to this manuscript–the important items that churned my idea into a book–into a box.
A little pause as I acknowledge all that’s happened in 2008. I’m extremely grateful. Now…out with the old, purge, absolve, cleanse, clear, eliminate, erase, exculpate, exonerate, exterminate, liquidate, oust, purify, remove, rid, unload.
Literally, 2009 will bring new things for me. More revelations as my book is debuted. Different items for my shelves as I begin to write another story and explore fresh characters. It’s exciting.
Do you have any end-of-the-year purging to do? How do you cleanse your mind after completing a book project and before moving to something new? What are your goals for 2009? Can Kath or I tell you anything more about our experiences that can help you get there? Send your questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Write on, all!