Saturday, February 2, 2013

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye...

So I just recently sent off my last round edits on a contemporary romantic comedy I have been working on for five years. I originally wrote She’s Got Dibs way back when I first decided to become a published author. Oh, the bliss of ignorance. At that point in my career, I freely admit I had no idea what I was doing. All that mattered was the process of writing, sitting down at the keyboard and getting my thoughts into some sort of cohesive plot from start to finish.

As luck would have it, I sent the story to my publisher and it was assigned to a newly acquired editor who loved it—bless her heart. However, once she sent in a contract request to her Sr. Editor, the manuscript was returned to me with a request for revisions. No big surprise now that I’ve become privy to the myriad rules governing the elusive craft of writing.

I glomed onto my editor’s advice, rewrote and resubmitted the story, thinking a contract offer was just around the corner. The submission was sent back for more revisions, so I dove in again, rewrote and resubmitted…only to have it returned to me a third time. Still too long. Still not enough focus. Still too much extra fluff that needed to come out.

To be honest, I’ve lost track of how many times I rewrote and resubmitted this one (I’m guessing five or six times), and would have probably given up and stuck the story in a file on my hard drive had it not been for the unwavering support and belief of my editor. She truly championed this story…sometimes even more than me.  

But this post isn’t about the dogged perseverance any new author must exemplify once they’ve decided to dive headfirst into the bottomless chasm of publishing. It’s about what happened to me during those five years.
 
My son went from a shy, glasses-wearing 2nd grader to a hulking, Jr. High man-child who races dirt bikes, has a FaceBook page, and knows how to work the electronics in my home better than me. He’s also my “go-to” guy whenever I can’t get the pickle jar open. The kid has hands the size of a yeti. My daughter grew from a one-year-old baby into an artistic fourth grader who plays the scores of Andrew Lloyd Webber on the piano, writes, edits and posts her own videos on YouTube, and comes home each afternoon with stories of the “drama” that happen amongst her classmates during recess. You want great ideas for twisting plot turns? Spend the afternoon dissecting the relationship dynamics of a fourth grade girl. You will emerge the other side a changed person. My husband and I saw our home-based business through a recession (hopefully), he learned to fly a powered parachute and I became an agented author and full-time editor.

Throughout all this, the characters in She’s Got Dibs were with me. Whenever I needed an escape from reality they were there, patiently waiting for me to bring them into sharper focus, deepen their commitment or write a snappy line of dialogue. They became good friends of mine. I began to think of them as real people, with real issues, fighting their way through to their happily ever after.

So while the goal of each author is to take those folks we spend our time creating and send them out into the world for others to enjoy, and I can admit a huge sense of satisfaction and relief accompanied my hitting the SEND button, I also must confess …I am deeply saddened to see these folks go on their merry way. After accepting the last of my editor’s requested changes, I got in the bathtub...and sobbed. Like…sobbed. Then I spent the remainder of the day walking around in a fog.
 
Was I really done? Did my two dear friends seriously just smile and wink, wave goodbye and disappear into the ether? How could that be? What about their tomorrow…or the next day? What about their future, for crying out loud? How could they just leave me like that? Didn’t they realize how close we’d become? Did they even care?

While I know that, yes, the only true way to get over this leave-taking is to craft another story—and I have been doing just that—I also have to wonder. Just how crazy am I? Is it time I called my physician and begged for Prozac? Perhaps I should forgo pharmaceuticals entirely and proceed (do not pass go, do not collect $200) to the nearest mental healthcare facility? Am I the only writer out there who undergoes a grieving process at the completion of a story? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.   

16 comments:

Joanne Stewart said...

Awww, (((HUGS))). I'm the exact opposite. After five years, I think you've earned this grieving period. For me, I live and breathe this story. I'm a bit OCD and it carries over into my writing. Which means that I should think of other things, but I usually can't. Until that project is complete and out of my sight, it's all I do. Think. Breathe. and eat.

so when it's all done and I can send to someone, like my (our) agent, it's a huge relief. It's a weight lifted. Until, of course, said agent actually sends it out into the world and then a whole new set of obsessing begins.

I'm positive some day, they put me in a nice little padded cell, because I've drive myself nuts. lol In other words, move over on that couch, I'll be joining you in therapy. ;)

AJ Nuest said...

LOL. Thanks, Joanne! I'll definitely save you a spot! It's always a little hard for me, but geesh, this one has been extremely tough. I can't believe it's actually over. Weird.

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, AJ, you and my Calvin. Two peas in a pod. Honest to God. He rewrote and rewrote THE PHANTOM LADY OF PARIS for six years. I suspected it was simply too hard for him to let go of Paul and Bonnie. When the publisher sent him his galley in a hard copy, Calivn was supposed to place a yellow sticky note in the book where he saw an error...only he soon was making changes on the sticky note. You know...change "ran" to "sprinted". Then the changes became longer. Calvin went to the office supply store and found 5 X 7 yellow sticky notes. He rewrote scenes on them and stapled the new pages together and taped them onto the page where the change was to start. He inserted new things. Deleted. By the time he made it to the end, the book looked like an explosion in a paper factory with all these yellow pages sticking out, helter-skelter beyond the covers. When his editor opened the box containing this gawd-awful mess, I'm told she went into hysterics. His next gally copy arrived via email. He just couldn't let Bonnie, the Phantom, go. She was his brain-child. So, no, you're not crazy. Neither is my husband. You're both writers...and that carries its own brand of insanity. ;-)

AJ Nuest said...

Well thank GOD for Calvin! That IS totally me. The last round of edits, my editor outright told me she wasn't re-reading the story...and demanded the same of me. LOL She said, "I'm accepting what you sent. Do NOT re-read this. Please God, no more revisions!" Thank you for the vote of "sane" and please do send Calvin my love.

Lisa Hannah Wells said...

You are NOT the only author who goes through a grieving process! I did many times. UNTIL *Light bulb shines above my head* I suggested a cast party to celebrate their success! That did it! I heard them again, only they were happy and excited and I could send them out into the world with JOY in my heart and a fresh space to begin the story for the next Cast of wonderful characters!

AJ Nuest said...

You know what, Lisa, that's an outstanding idea. I love that -- cast party. I'm doing that. LOL THANK YOU! XOXO

Nancy Jardine said...

I think I like any idea that says 'you're on your way now'. My problem with characters that have been around for years (aka my novel for children that's now for YA)is that I've forgotten who they really are(in my heart, and I guess like you, AJ, I have to relive them all over again at each rewrite) :-) but that's okay becaus I still love them!
Look forward to the next 'creations'...

Darcy said...

Oh, AJ, you are completely within the parameters of sanity (I mean for a writer,of course). When I edited my manuscript, I kept rereading and rereading, making tweaks here, more extensive changes there, rethinking scenes, getting out a fresh notebook and creating new secondary characters to add a few more complications to the story line. I could go on, but you know the process. In fact, I took so long that my editor finally emailed me to see if I was still alive, and that little push finally got me to let the story go, though in some ways I hated doing it. When I finally put "The End" on a manuscript, at first I feel an immense feeling of relief. Hooray, I actually finished it. But then the grieving process suddenly kicks in. My God, with my hero and heroine gone, what will I do with my life now? And will they really have the glorious future I imagined for them? Did I prepare them well enough to be out in the world and on their own? Okay, I've gone on enough to give you the basic idea of the suffering I go through, so I'll stop now. But be assured, you're completely writer-normal. Love both Vonnie's story about the wonderfully writer-obsessed Calvin and Lisa's suggestion for a "cast party." And super congrats, AJ, for sending your story out into the world so everyone can read it and enjoy.

Rolynn Anderson said...

The sobbing you hear from me in CA is relief because I'm so glad to move on to the next book. Although I enjoy revising in general, the nit-picky part isn't much fun. I was a high school teacher and principal...it's about loving your kids when they're with you, but being relieved to drive away from the school building ALONE! I hand off my books with relief.

Here's the joy for me. I may 'forget' about the characters in the book I've handed off, but they will live in the hearts/minds of my readers! AJ, you're fine...wound no tighter than the rest of us! :-) Mush on!

Lynda said...

AJ, I read your blog today and laughed and cried. That would be me, every time I finish a manuscript. The characters I've spent so much time with, put through several levels of hell, and wrote them into heaven are a part of me...just as those folks are a part of you. We authors have a very different sort of "empty nest syndrome" when it comes to the characters we've created.

AJ Nuest said...

Hi Nancy! You broach a very good topic...and maybe have hit the nail on the head when it comes to this story. I DID have to relive them time and again...especially with the last couple of rounds because I did another major rewrite. Makes the letting go even harder because I got so close to them again. Very good point, my friend. Thanks for stopping by and big hugs!!

AJ Nuest said...

Oh Darcy, I loved your comment. I'm so relieved to hear I'm not the only one! And I think you're right in the "did I prepare them enough" part. So, so true. I had to chuckle about your editor. Mine emailed with, "Truth be told, I'm terrified to send this back to you for fear you'll have it another six months." LOL Uh, yeah. Been there. Hugs and thanks for the comment!! XO

AJ Nuest said...

Awww...thank you Rolynn! Agreed all around that yes, now my characters get to go off and meet new folks, hopefully some of them my dear friends, and introduce themselves into their lives as well. Hopefully whoever reads their story will enjoy it and feel as connected to them as I became. All that aside, I'm almost nervous what will happen when I need to let go of the SERIES I'm working on. Oy, that's gonna be a toughie. LOL Thanks for stopping by!!

AJ Nuest said...

Yes, yes, that's it exactly Lynda! Empty nest syndrome!! Maybe one of these days I'll get really creative and give them cameos in another story. Hmmm...gets me thinkin for sure. I love that you connected with my post! Thank you so much for the words of encouragement! Hugs!!

Mackenzie Crowne said...

(((((((((AJ)))))))))) On the road so I'll keep this short. You won't be grieving having finally released your baby into the world for long. You'll be too busy answering fan mail. Just saying. ;-)

Calisa Rhose said...

{{{{{AJ}}}}}} It's a good thing, setting them free. Remember, you didn't say good-bye. Like a caterpillar, your baby will return-- a beautiful butterfly, thanks to your diligent transformation and undying love for them. Drink some wine and celebrate their independence, sweetie.