The Newborn Novel

So in my eternal quest for publication, I realized that I was becoming so obsessive with the vision of my book on a shelf that I had lost sight of the journey of my characters.  When I was twenty-nine, I had an idea for a story.  When I was thirty, I began scratching the first draft of the novel out on notebook paper.  Six months later I had what I thought was a masterpiece, but what I now realize to be a truly unequipped first draft.  My story for all extensive purposes was a newborn baby.  You could see it, and get a sense of what it was, even fantasize about the future that it would have, but it was helpless.  It could not stand on it’s own.  I passed the manuscript around like a proud mother would with her first born, believing through a doting mother’s eyes that my book was perfect.  When my beta testers did not understand a pun, or a metaphor, I deduced that they just didn’t grasp the brilliance of my work.  Arrogant I know, but I believe one must have a certain amount of arrogance to be in this business to begin with.  And that’s what I have come to understand.  It is a business, not an artist struggling to release the inner muse as I always associated my art form as.  *Sigh* Forgive me and my vanity.

So I tossed the manuscript aside, and dreamed of the day when I would cross paths with a literary agent over drinks, and they would trip over themselves in a desperate attempt to get their hands on my work.  (There’s that arrogance again…)

I spent a year getting on with my life, occasionally writing an additional chapter or two, noting “lines” that my characters would be so clever to say.  The verbal exchange causing me to chuckle as I imagined my literary creations standing before me, in a room I had dreamt up in my mind.

As I closed in on thirty-two, the novel now three years in the making, I dusted the jacket cover off, a simple thin plastic coating that cost me over a hundred dollars to be bound at Staples, and gave the book a good read.  This time, I had a red marker in my hand, and I dissected the manuscript as if I were doing an autopsy.  I had a talk with my arrogant self and told her it was best if she stayed hidden away for awhile, after all what I was about to do was not going to be pretty.  Page my page.  Line by line, the editing began.  I color coded each page. Red for grammar.  Green for new lines.  Purple for new characters, and orange for crossing out the excess fat.

I made steady progress, until I gave up half way.  Life, as they say, got in the way.

The book lay untouched for a year, biding it’s time, although the characters walked beside me each day.  Like ghosts they haunted me.  I saw them on the streets, I heard them in my head, and knew that I could only ignore their call for so long.  ( If I may be so bold as to defend my madness, I do believe that a writer’s mind is the only socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.)

This past summer of my thirty-third year, I set out on my literary journey.  I did what I never imagined myself to do four years earlier, I rewrote my novel.  Page by page.  Line by line.  In order.

Typing the last word didn’t hold the significance I had hoped.  There was no cry of joy or celebration as I recognized the massive transformation my writing had underwent.  I had become the master of my own evolution as a writer, and instead of embracing the moment, I shrank in fear.

The arrogance had shed it’s skin at last.  Reality had replaced her.

I needed to know that the book was ready, for in my mind, I had written my very soul on every page.  So I handed all four hundred and thirty some odd pages over to the one person in the world who I knew would give me an honest opinion.  While I awaited her review, I assembled my first presentation of my novel for submissions.  The rejections came fast and hard.  I had prepared myself for weeks of silence, but the first rejection stumbled in three hours after I had clicked send.

Forty-three times I queried my novel.

Twenty-five times I was answered with a polite rejection.

Half way through my journey, I realized that given the response time, the likelihood of my pages actually being read were slim to none.  That’s when I realized that every drop of art had been squeezed out of this “project”.  That’s what the agents referred to my one hundred and twenty thousand some odd words.  Not a triumph or a masterpiece. A project.

That’s when I realized that I am but one of countless thousands trying to find a voice in this battle for beauty.  This need to create and be heard, to weave a tapestry of words and enchant others with my tale.  I am not the writer I had romanticized.  I am a magician, trying desperately to outwit my audience and stay one step ahead of my rivals.  I imagined a lovely life of quills, and philosophy.  That is not the reality of writing.  Writing is work.  It is dedication.  It is rewriting, and perfecting.  It is ensnaring the senses and mastering illusion.  It is becoming an expert in every field you wish to launch your characters into.

I became so lost in the selling aspect, the drive to gain acceptance by my peers that I lost sight of my original quest.  I forgot my characters.  I forgot the very fiber of my work.  So, today, I shall rejuvenate them, even if only in my mind.  For all great works were once an idea.  This is my homage to them.

Oh, and as for my trusted advisor and eternal best friend, she loved my book.

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2 thoughts on “The Newborn Novel

  1. This is so true! Great thoughts!

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