Today’s post from Patti Hill at our sister blog, Novel Matters | @PattiHill @NovelMatters
I’m a sucker for those behind-the-scenes features on DVDs. A peek behind the story curtain is added value in my book. I enjoy seeing the actors being themselves—joking, laughing, perplexed over a scene. Seeing all that only makes me appreciate the art of story more.
That’s why I’ve decided to open my diary to you.
Normally, a writer’s life is dull as dirt, but I managed to find something for you. Below are the entries I wrote after I sent my latest manuscript off to my editor.
Feeling a bit blue. Aimless. Sent my manuscript off to the editor yesterday. I’m lost! I walk into rooms with a sense of urgency, only to stand slack-jawed and befuddled. “What am I doing in this room?”
I’ve started a list of revisions to add to my editor’s when the manuscript returns to me.
My daydreams are driving me mad. In one rendition, my editor over-nights a 5# box of dark chocolate and a note saying she’s never seen a more perfect story in her life. I fear my second, more persistent, daydream is true–my editor calls to say the publishing house is cancelling my contract. The manuscript is pig snot, drivel, weak in the knees. A reeking heap of rotting, slimy broccoli. I knew it all along.
I think I have an idea for my next novel. Phew!
Nothing. Not one word from my editor. For goodness sake, woman, throw me a bone! Tell me one way or the other. Is it Pulitzer or the dung heap? I can take it.
I’ve gotten most of the dishes out of my office. But still, the scent of mac ‘n’ cheese persists, and I’m missing a couple spoons from my mother-in-law’s silver, the set I borrowed last Christmas. Yikes!
I’m buzzing about the Internet, reading up on telephone museums. Is this a red herring or the birth of the GAN (Great American Novel)?
Seven days of silence. Maybe my editor is dead. Stop that! Why think such a terrible thing? She’s not dead, but her car could have veered off the road. Deer are a menace along that stretch of highway, and the woods are creepy thick. I can see it now. She swerved to miss a deer and ripped through the trees. Isn’t there a lake just off the highway? It’s quite possible her Prius is partially submerged; and she can’t call out because she’s unconscious. Snakes could be nesting at her feet, laying eggs; mosquitoes feast on her bare arms. Are there bears in the woods?
Reality check, Miss Patti: It’s only been seven days. Seven.
Found the spoons; dumped the telephone museum angle. Need. Killer. Idea. Now.
It’s been ten whole days. I can only imagine the pages of revision notes my editor has accumulated. I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve filled a composition book with the changes I want to make. Clearly, the story needs more tension and conflict. Nothing really happens. There’s nothing at stake. I’ve written the first novel in the history of the world about absolutely nothing at all. In fact, what made me think I could write a novel? The first five were a fluke. I can see that now.
Mother-in-law says a knife is missing, too. I do not use knives when eating in my office. Is she serious?
Been reading People magazine, listening to NPR, and eavesdropping on conversations everywhere I go. Still no idea for the next novel. Must start writing soon.
I can see the top of my desk, and I finally found a cleaner to vanquish the orange ring in the toilets. Sometimes, life hands you a gold medal. Feeling good about these small accomplishments. Next, the refrigerator.
It’s been TWO weeks! She never takes two weeks to edit my manuscripts. My husband refuses to talk about it, and no one is picking up my calls. Curse caller I.D.! Maybe I should call her, see if her daughter made it onto the soccer team, or if her husband remembered their anniversary this year. Do I want to know why it’s taking so long? Do I want to be told to rewrite everything but the dedication? What to do? What to do?
Found my mother-in-law’s knife under the printer. That explains the mysterious rattle.
Trying on this idea for my next novel: An orphaned boy is terribly mistreated by his aunt and uncle. They sequester him in a cubby under the stairs. Lo and behold, this kid’s mom and dad were wizards, and he has inherited their magical powers, but his magic is untamed and unpredictable. He must be trained! He must go to—what?—Hogwash School! Yes! This is great. Note to self: Come up with a better name for the school.
St. John’s wort doesn’t work. Fat-laden coffee confections don’t work. Date night definitely didn’t work. (Sorry, honey.) For good or bad, I need to hear from my editor.
Seems the wizard kid thing is an old chestnut. Going back to the telephone museum idea. This will be a tough sell.
The manuscript was delivered to my inbox this morning. Revision notes aren’t as bad as I feared, not as good as I’d hoped but doable. In fact, I love, love, love my editor’s suggestions. It certainly does take a village to write a novel. What would I do without her? I love that woman. I’m so glad she’s such a careful driver. The synergy between us is pure magic. This is it! This is my break-out novel.
Note to self: Send 5 lbs. of chocolate, the kind with nuts and sour cherries, to the most wonderful editor in the world. And she’s mine!
My diary entries are mostly tongue-in-cheek, but no small amount of anxiety and anticipation accompanies the relinquishment of a manuscript into the editor’s hands.
Sending off a manuscript is like watching your youngest child leave the house for kindergarten. Did I prepare him for all the good and bad in the world? Will he embarrass me with stories about the family? Did I remember to put a napkin in his lunchbox? All the time for preparation is over. He steps onto the bus without looking back. Maybe if I kept him home one more year…
Letting go of something?
Ariel Lawhon is the co-founder of She Reads, novelist, blogger, storyteller, and life-long reader. She lives in Texas with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.