Editing My Novel

I’ve spent this morning editing my novel, working well into normal work hours with this side project, something I’ve for the most part avoided. But it feels good and I want to get this thing moving forward.

I’ve finished the straight through copyedit, and now I’m working on some larger issues, tweaking scenes here and there and making sure the thing works as a whole. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this now, but I also don’t want to publish a novel with The Glen Allen After School Special intact, even if it is just a Cafepress printing.

The novel in a month thing is opening all sorts of doors, at least in my mind.

While I have felt a bit of withdrawal, I’ve wanted to hold off from jumping back into this. But I will eventually jump back in. I’ve liked writing fiction, and I want to do it again, more often that I used to.

I’ve thought about where I want this book to go, where I want to position myself as a writer. I wish you didn’t have to think about those things, but you do. At least if you want to do more than write for yourself and a close group of friends in your off hours. And frankly, that’s fine, writing in the off hours. But if I could do it in the on hours, well, that’s worth a shot.

So I’m thinking about markets and where I could possibly publish such a book. It’s probably a longshot, since it’s such a general fiction book. There’s no genre or category to make it easier. I have connections in the Christian industry, at least introductions to the CBA world of fiction. But I don’t think this book fits that mold, and I don’t think that’s where I want to be as a writer.

The word ‘fuck’ appears seven times in my early draft of Downtown Dandelions. Definitely not a CBA-accepted practice. Though it could be a lot worse considering I have a character who averages one-and-a-half per minute. Personally, I don’t have a problem with swearing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a four-letter word. It’s simply a cultural meaning we’ve given to the word–I don’t think God has a problem with it. Of course there are cultural considerations, the whole meat sacrificed to idols issue in 1 Corinthians 8, I believe, which keeps me from using those words in regular conversation. But in the context of a story I think it’s acceptable. I get annoyed when people say that swearing is evidence of a limited vocabulary. Some people have a limited vocabulary, so why wouldn’t your character use those words? And what’s so limited about the words anyway?

But I digress. I still have to deal with the words. The other day I sent out an e-mail letting people know I’d finished the novel (and thanks to the many, many people who keep writing with congrats and encouragement), and I realized later a few of my youth group kids received that e-mail and could come across my f-bomb dropping character. I’m not sure what I think of that. I’m not sure what their parents will think of that. So I need to decide if I should keep those seven words in the novel, or if I should cut back.

But I still digress. My discomfort with the CBA means the enormous world of mainstream publishing is for me, and there I don’t have a clue.

I do know enough to know that if I want to go that route I’ll need to start doing research, start getting my name out there, start writing short stories for mainstream publications. It all sounds intimidating and over my head. And maybe it is. But part of it sounds fun.

I also know that the publishing world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Even if I can justify writing in the ‘on hours,’ it probably can’t be full time. Contracts and such are also tough. Most writers see maybe 10% of the cover price of a book. Ouch. It’s not much to live on. It makes me think a lot about self-publishing, though I doubt that’s the magic bullet either. But I like thinking through the edges, thinking through how it works and how to do it differently.

One thing I really like is the idea of a serial story, of posting the story as you go. Few writers are brave enough to try it. I did it with this novel. Tim is doing it with Charlie Parker, and I’m addicted. It probably helps that Tim is a good writer, but it seems like a fun way for a writer to interact with readers. It’s certainly dangerous and scary, but nothing’s easy.

As my grand vision thinking goes I start wondering about web sites and how a published author can or should relate to readers. Most writers are pretty untouchable. I know of very few published authors who run their own web sites and actually keep them updated. It seems like a no-brainer for me, but maybe I’m just a child of the web with too much free time. Reading an author’s blog sounds fun to me (hey, I do it), and reading snippets of something someone like Anne Lamott, Barbara Kingsolver or Nick Hornby are working on sounds cool.

Maybe it’s just for the diehards, but I like the idea.

I don’t know what to start writing next. Dave is throwing a Christmas story contest, which sounds fun. Perhaps I should just dive into it.

There is a bit of fear about what to write next. Downtown Dandelions came together so well because of everything about National Novel Writing Month. I don’t know if that will happen again. Though I suppose the lesson is I’ll never know until I try.

Part of the fear is being mediocre, or worse crap. Being crap isn’t so bad, because at least it’s obvious. But if you’re only mediocre you can trick yourself into thinking you’re hot stuff. U2 has been a model in this. They finished what would become How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb in 2003, but it wasn’t amazing. “Great is the enemy of art,” or something like that, is what Bono has said many times. The album they’d recorded was good, but it wasn’t the best. So they spent another year deconstructing those songs and rewriting them to come up with what they have now. You can hear some of those alternate versions on iTunes, and Bono’s right: they’re good, but not amazing. So the really hard part is recognizing that and being willing to tear it down again so you can build it back up.

I think that’s the truly hard part about writing. I’ve written the story now. That first hurtle that has held me back for years and years is now behind me. But what’s next is quite possibly even harder: being willing to rip into the novel and muck it up and tear it apart and rework it to make it better. I don’t know if my novel needs that, but my reluctance to do it makes me think perhaps it does. That’s all a long term thing I’m not too worried about now, but the prospect is there. And that prospect exists with any type of writing I do. And that’s scary.

So that’s where I’m at. Lots of big long random thoughts. I should get back to Sedgewick.

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