A Novel Leap of Faith

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…but not always for the reasons you might think.

I’m working through my nearly-finished novel for about the umpteenth time, revising, editing, spell checking, deleting, replacing. I’m very nearly there. Soon I’ll be at that point where I’m changing a word here and restructuring a sentence there just because I can, and because in that moment it seems like a good idea. The problem is, I may look at it the next day and change it back again, or change it to something else entirely, depending on what I ate for breakfast or which way I’m crossing my legs.

The question is: How will I know when I’m finished?

The more important question is: Do I even want to be finished?

I have often fantasised about the day when I will type “The End”, push myself back from my desk with a giddy sense of closure, and stride off to commence my post-novel life. That life is content. It is artistically fulfilled. Hopefully it involves being published. It is just ever so slightly smug.

But here’s the thing: I’m not sure I’m ready for that life yet.

I know that as soon as I type those final two words (and mean it), my book will no longer be my private pleasure. It will have to be proofread, and edited, and then, whether I self-publish or manage to persuade (i.e. bribe) a publisher to take it on, it will be…read.

Surprising, I know. Shocking, even.

My most significant creative endeavour so far (apart from my MA thesis, written many years ago, and my daughter) will be open to other people’s interpretations and critiques and judgements and opinions, none of which I can control. It will be OUT THERE. And right now it seems much safer to keep it IN HERE. I haven’t even told anyone what it’s about, for heaven’s sake (apart from my partner, one very wise friend, and the cat, who stretched a bit and looked at me adoringly, which he always does anyway, so I’m not sure I can trust his opinion). I’ve been asked by countless people what my book is about, and each time I sort of mumble and make excuses and wink a bit, pretending that it’s a huge secret that I can’t possible divulge. Nobody even knows the title.

The truth is, I don’t want to say what it’s about because A. Its premise is slightly unusual and I feel embarrassed trying to explain it, as though I have to justify something, and B. The act of articulating what the novel is about symbolises for me a letting go; a handing over of something precious and intimate and…mine. Bottom line, it makes me feel exposed and vulnerable.

The great Stephen King has this to say in his fantastic book On Writing:

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticise it.

He’s right, of course. I have written my book for people to read. How they read it, and how they understand it, is up to them.

The thing is, I so desperately want it to mean something. I want it to give people something (other than indigestion). I want it to make them feel something. I want people to like it.

But first, I have to gather the courage to release it, firstly to the dear fellow proofreader who has offered to cast her eye over it, and then to anyone else who cares to spend $1.99 on Amazon. (Kidding. $2.99, at least.)

There’s a card I have pinned on the noticeboard above my desk where I write. It says:

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

This has meant a great deal to me in my personal life, and it seems relevant now as I prepare to email my proofreading colleague and ask if she is still up for it.

Time to blossom.

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One Comment on “A Novel Leap of Faith”

  1. L.D. Parker June 19, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    Writing is sometimes scary…and exhilarating

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