Friday, April 15, 2005
How I Got Here, Part 36
Well. As you eagle-eyed BGs have been noticing, I ain’t been tellin’ ya a doggone thing about how my new book’s coming. Kelly even had the nerve in her comments yesterday to say, “Oh, hey, shouldn’t you have about 60 pages done by now?”
Kelly, it’s a good thing we’re talking through cyber space, or I’d a punched you in the nose.
No, I don’t have 60 pages, okay? I have maybe 20. Fact is, over the weekend, I nearly chucked the whole book idea. It wasn’t going anywhere, I couldn’t figure out the story, and I figured I’d better just start over. Trouble was, nothing new came to mind.
Truth is, my pea brain is weary. The Web of Lies rewrite took way too long, and I dragged myself over the finish line one day before I was supposed to start writing the next book. Which I had no clue about. Ye ol’ brain cells simply needed a rest. So although I tried to force an opening (including that first line), it just wasn’t coming. So I gave myself a few days to think and pull back from all writing. Monday I hardly spent in my office. What’s a girl to do when she needs a break? GO SHOPPING! Oh, yeah, baby. Why else do you think I ended up in Nordstrom’s—where the spider crawled out of the sandal I wanted to try on.
See how my writing haunts me wherever I go?
I have now thought of a few more ideas for this here Paige whatever-her-last-name-is book. Actually, I’ve decided—her last name is Williams. Now I really do have to start writing. I hope as I write what I do know that I can start to fill in the rest of the story.
Quick answers to questions from yesterday. (1). Proposals. Yes, generally for a new author, a nonfiction book is far more likely to be sold on a proposal than a novel. Fiction is just plain harder to write, and the house will want to know that the new novelist can pull off the entire book, not just the first few chapters. (2). Line editing vs. copy editing. As I see it, the former is still editing the actual writing, but on a line by line, picky basis. Do you really want to use this word? Or—these two lines are not needed; I suggest you delete. Copy editing is checking facts, consistencies, spelling and grammar. Line edits are typically done by the same editor who does the “macro” or overall biggy edit. Copy editors are different animals altogether. They’re the detail-oriented freaks. A good copy editor is an incredible talent. Anybody that can spot a white blouse changing to beige 200 pages later is a keeper in my book. Pun intended. Plus they have to know the Chicago Manual of Style backwards and forwards. Try that on for some late night reading. (3). My editing at Zondervan. Both Dave Lambert and Karen Ball do my macro edit. See why my life’s so tough? These two keep my feet to the fire. From there, Karen does the track changes (or line edits). A copy editor then takes over for copy editing. And then a proofer—yet another person—proofs the final typeset version.
All right, bodacious BGs. Back to our Never Ending Saga.
We’re up to the spring of 2001. Two things happened by that year’s Mount Hermon conference. One, I finished Getting Into Character and sent it off to the publisher. Two—drum roll . . . My first novel, Cast a Road Before Me, was published.
There are few words worthy to describe what it feels like to hold your first novel in your hands. The fruition of a journey that had taken ten years. Actually by March 2001 I was into my twelfth year of writing fiction. The publisher had told me they’d send one book hot off the press. The rest of my free copies would come later. That was fine by me—one copy was all I needed. So I started looking for the UPS truck—every day. Driver must have thought I had a serious crush on him. I could hear the truck from my office. So I’d trot outside, watch him go up the street, and wait and wait, hoping against hope that he’d stop at our house on the way back down.
And one day he did.
I hopped around like some cut loose Jack-in-the-box as he rattled around the truck, looking for my package. “Hm. Can’t find it. Maybe it got left behind. If so, I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.”
What, was he kidding? He’d left my package back at some loading dock? I couldn’t believe it. Who’d trained him in such leave-me-hanging techniques—some house’s pub board?
“Oh, wait. Here it is.”
He handed it to me with total nonchalance. Like it was some book I’d ordered, or some pair of pants. Didn’t he know that package contained my world?
I grabbed the thing in my chubby little hands and sailed up the steps to our porch. Into the house. Banged shut the door with a foot. Hurried into the kitchen. Plopped the package onto the counter.
Stood back and looked at it.
Suddenly, I couldn’t open the thing.
It’s just that, well, I’d waited so long. Worked for so many years. And here my first book sat, bundled up on my counter. I wanted a crew filming this scene. I wanted swelling music, crowds applauding. Instead—nobody. Sheesh, even my husband was at work.
Maybe I should wait until he got home. After all, he’d been through the heartaches of this journey with me. He could take a movie of me flourishing a knife, slitting the top of the package. Pulling out my book. We’d have the film forever. I could show it to my kids, my grandkids. You know, when I was a world-renowned author, and they’d climb on my lap and ask, “How did it all begin, Grandma?”
I looked at the package.
It was only ten in the morning.
Stared at the package again.
My heart performed this odd little leap. Are you crazy? Forget this. No way was I waiting for my husband to get home. I couldn’t stand this one more minute.
In my head the violins soared and cymbals crashed. I imagined eager fans staying up all night to read this masterpiece, my first novel. On tiptoe with anticipation, I theatrically pulled a knife out of its wooden butcher block. Placed the blade against the top of the package. Held my breath.
And slit it open.
Read Part 37