I just finished my latest book, Sunday by Sunday III, a little past midnight. I had set last Friday as my deadline. And I take deadlines very seriously, not like Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), who claims to “love deadlines…the whooshing sound they make when they fly by.” But, alas, Friday whooshed by, and I wasn’t done. Then, Monday, for absolutely sure. Nope. On Wednesday I wrote to a friend, “I’m finishing III today. I struggled all day yesterday for the exact right ending. Finally, this morning as I boiled my oatmeal, it came.” Discovering how to end it was about being still and knowing that God is God. About “getting out of the way,” as Madeleine L’Engle, and many others, put it. “Art is collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.” ~André Gide
Anyway, yee-haw! God and I are done. Tomorrow I’ll send the manuscript to my main editor and several other readers for final feedback Most of the characters will survive revision, I think, and most of the story lines are pretty well set, and yet, there is more work. (“A book is never finished, you just finally have to abandon it.”) But the hardest part, making it all up, is over. Thank God.
Composition is like taming a lion. Revising is like playing with a kitten. That’s how it is for me. I relish the fine tuning. Tightening is in order, striving to cut out every word that isn’t necessary. Making sure that the action builds on itself convincingly is important, and there will be some backtracking to make that happen. Consistency of facts is obviously important, too—and tricky. As I’ve delved back into the first two books in the series, I’ve discovered three major errors regarding consistency of factual information. I hope no reader ever discovers them, but if someone does, s/he will receive a free book (if s/he keeps her/his mouth shut).
Seriously, typos can occur even with a spell checker and half a dozen proofreaders. Inconsistencies arise even with the search function and diligent editors. A book is a big document, and the writing process complex. I guess for that reason, I don’t get upset or (too) embarrassed when my mistakes are caught. Oops. Darn. Sorry. I re-e-eally wanted it to be perfect, but… Do I sound lame, as though I have low standards? Maybe self-published works like mine typically do have more errors. But I’ll say this: I recently read a hard cover novel by a best-selling, very prominent author published, of course, by a huge publishing house, that had a lot more typos than any of my books. What’s my point here? Maybe I should omit this paragraph.
Anyway, whew. Annie Dillard told authors in The Writing Life, “Your one necessity: …to dangle from it limp, wherever it takes you…” I am definitely limp, so maybe I’ve done something write. Oops, I mean right.