It's Monday morning, Labor Day, and I find myself home and virtually alone. Everyone in my house is enjoying sleeping in--husband, teenagers, dogs, even the Goodfeathers are asleep. (That's the name I gave my cockatiels-T.J. Tony, Chris, Paulie, and Missy.)
Anyway, alone my office, I'm getting ready to plug in the old laptop beside me and start working on edits and it occurred to me that change, whether it's in the depths of a manuscript, our professional life, or even our family life, is just plain hard.
Think about it. We authors spend months, and yes, sometimes years on a manuscript. We tell the story from our hearts, building characters and painstakingly plotting things out, only to have to back through it multiple times, tear it apart, and then piece it back together. Think that's easy? Not by a long shot.
Sometimes, as all writers know, it means we have to get rid of things we really loved for the good of the story. Long, beautiful description, smart, snappy dialogue. Stuff like that.
Or, we may have to add things that weren't in our original vision. For instance, sometimes, we have to decide whether to kill a character or have mercy and let him live. Don't think that's not tough because we love our characters so, and yet, it's really good drama!
In one of my books, I even killed the hero in the first five pages, lol! (See my book: Spirited Away) Of course, I brought him back as a ghost, but as one of my contest judges noted, you must really hate men!
Absolutely not! It was for the drama, and it turned out so well. That book was my first and only (so far) New York sale. But, trust me, by page 5, I had loved him so much it was very hard to have him executed.
Now, you might think that's the toughest kind of change, the one the author decides to do on her own. Not so, gentle reader.
If you're like me, you have critique partners who sometimes look at the fruits of your labor and go 'Ugh!' Not a good sign. Or, maybe you've entered your first chapter in a contest and three to five judges mark the text with all sorts of red lines and in red ink have literally left your lovely manuscript looking like it has been sliced to pieces and now it lays bleeding before you.
Then you work to repair the damage, uh thereby making it a better book, and send it to a publisher.
Then the publisher rejects you and if you're lucky they care enough about the book to send you suggestions on... Yes, you guessed it... how to change it! You do it because you want to make a sale and see your lovely little book on the shelf of the bookstore or proudly displayed on a web page.
When you finally make that sale, you are as proud as a new parent, except the editor has things she wants changed. So, sometimes after multiple revisions and edits, you turn it in and she gives you the go ahead...
And then it goes to the copy editor who even finds more stuff that's not right. Again, three more times through the book. (Do you see a pattern here?) More change.
Finally, you hold the galleys of your manuscript, that wonderful story that you've held in your heart forever and ever, and you read it through...three more times.
Now you must find all the typos, misprints, broken texts, ect... and send it back to the publisher, again, all marked up with red pencil.
Even if you're e-pubbed, by the way, the process is the same. Only it's done on the computer. (I've learned you can't cry on the keyboard. It doesn't like tears. And if it's a laptop, uh, tears on the keyboard is death to a laptop.)
Sometimes, you even have to change the kind of story you write, too. You have to expand into other genre's or other kinds of writing. For instance, I went from straight historical to historical paranormal and even urban fantasy. I also started writing short stories. I'm published in both print books and electronic. And, I feel like I'm still evolving.
The long and the short of it? Change is good. Not always fun, not always comfortable, and not always profitable. But, it is good. It challenges us, keeps us fresh, and gives us something to work toward.
Some might say that holding your book in your hand is the ultimate joy of being a writer. That's true, but only to an extent. The fun is not only in reaching the destination, my friend, but also in the journey. There's nothing more awesome than seeing a character emerge from your mind and fingertips to become a living entity on the page--or computer screen.
So in that light, I'm off do do some changing, uh revising. Happy Labor Day everyone! Enjoy the rest you've earned this year.
Happy Reading! Pam