I’ve emerged from the wandering wood – or at least, I see the edge of it. Yesterday, I finished my rewrite of my historical novel. Last scene of last chapter, the final reconciliation: done. I thought, I ought to celebrate. With the rest of the day taking over from those precious early morning writing hours with dentist appointments, the prospect of surgeries, deadlines, and dinners, I didn’t even mark the occasion other than to tell my writing group, “I did it.”
There’s a bit of housekeeping left. I need to do one more read-through for continuity before I send the book off to the next round of beta readers (and who am I going to find among my friends and writing colleagues who hasn’t read this thing already? We’re up to draft 11, for heaven’s sake.) I changed a few names. I combined two towns. I married off a vicar who’d been single in drafts one through 10. And I changed the ages of some key characters, for purposes of plot. I need to smooth out those last rough patches before anyone else sees it.
I feel bursting with triumph, and hopeful. Last night I dreamed that the very first agent who saw the new draft signed me and sold the book. (IRL, this is an agent who has already passed on the MS, though she was very nice and encouraging about it.) I feel like these revisions are a vast improvement. When I sat down to start the re-read this morning, I could see all the ways the new version is an improvement. The first chapter is tighter, leaner, cleaner. There is tension in the air. There’s a problem. There are stakes.
I also found myself, yesterday and today, filled with wild apprehension and attacks of stabbing anxiety. It’s better, but is it good enough? Is it good enough to sell this time? How long should I wait before I start submitting again? Should I put it in a drawer and let it rest for a time? Should I just take my chances? What if my beta readers are encouraging (like last time) but the agent and editor rejection is total and complete (again)? What if the book never sells? What if I never sell anything?
The old thoughts and limiting beliefs keeping popping up, like a whack-a-mole game. But I’ve learned a few things from this process.
If it’s not good enough, I can make it better.
If the book doesn’t sell, I can write something else.
If I never sell anything, I least I’ll still be writing. And it’s the writing I love most. I love holding my published books, admittedly. I adore the process of editing, proofing, sending in final corrected galleys, reviewing covers designs and marketing plans. I won’t lie: I absolutely love that feeling of signing a contract to publish a work.
Part of the goal of writing is to produce writing. I get that. But the reward of writing is the process itself: the discipline, the control, the possibilities, the intoxicating feeling of swimming in that creative realm. That keeps me coming back to the page, no matter what.
Besides that, I keep seeing reposted everywhere some version of this message: “The people who succeed are the ones who never gave up.” So I’ll keep trying. Keep tossing myself, heart and soul and manuscript pages in hand, at those hurdles. One day, I’ll make it over clear.