Yesterday Kiersten White did a really great post about something that happens to me all the time. (I loved her post because she managed to formulate everything I’d been thinking and somehow put it to words. On paper! It’s like she’s a professional writer or something!)
Anyway, it’s always amazing to me how a conversation can go from “You’re a writer?” to “My second grade teacher said I should be a writer” in about 2.4 seconds. Flat.
And it’s all good. Great, in fact. I’m happy for you, really I am. I’m not all that comfortable talking about myself in the first place. Especially when that same conversation starts to steer into what I like to call “awkward territory”. And, no, I’m not even talking about the ballsy “So, how much was your advance?” conversation, I’m talking about the other…”How ‘bout I send you some of my stuff and you can tell me what you think?”
Okay, I didn't mean for that to sound bitchy, let me try again…umm, no.
How about this? Umm, no!
No? Still not any better?
Yeah, well, that’s because I’m probably not gonna read it. For several reasons.
Besides the obvious legal ramifications (you know that pesky being-accused-of-plagiarism thing), I’m busy. Really busy. Really, REEAAALLLY BUSY! I think there’s this misnomer that a writer sits in his or her office (or in a really comfy “reading chair”) and writes a book, and then they just send it in to their editor, who edits it, and voila! A book is born!
Here’s what really goes down: Said editor sends said writer editorial notes, with which said writer busts their freaking hump in an effort to satisfy said editor’s needs, wants, and innermost desires for that first draft. Oh yeah, you heard me: First. Draft. Because, yes, there will probably be a second, and possibly a third, round of revisions.
You: And then the writer gets to just kick back and collect royalty checks, right?
Me: Umm, yeah, not so much.
Then you do your copyedits. You learn phrases like “Stet” and you decide how many “whom”s a YA novel can withstand, grammatically correct or not, before it sounds like a throwback to Jane Austen. You pour over each and every single line until your eyes feel like they're hemorrhaging.
You: And then you’re done…?
Me: You’re getting closer now, but not quite. Next your lovely little manuscript is sent off to the typesetter, and you receive these gorgeously crafted pages as they will (eventually) appear in the bound books. Beautiful fonts, pretty little art designs created just for the pages of your book, your Acknowledgements in all their glory. Every single page of it!
But, wait! You see mistakes on those pages! That’s right, these are just your First Pass Pages. And yet again, you get to go through character-by-character seeking out every little error in need of correction. You send those in, and depending on your publisher, you will receive Second Pass Pages as well, another opportunity to work until your eyes bleed.
In the meantime, you’ve been working on your next book, or maybe that one’s already done and you've reached the revision stage. In the meantime, you’re also working on another book.
What I’m saying is that it’s never finished. I’m always working. On something. Ask my husband. Or my kids. Look at my house…the proof is in the laundry. (Or the poorly stocked kitchen).
And if that isn’t enough to deter you from trying to pass me the poem you scribbled on the back of your Denny’s napkin, here’s another: I’m not very good at it. There’s a reason I never joined a Crit Group. I’m like your mom, I’ll try to frame it and hang it on my fridge. I want to see the good in everything you do (especially if I like you), which isn’t at all useful to someone who is serious about getting published. I am the Paula Abdul of writing.
So, save yourself (and me) a lot of grief. For the love of god, ask me about my advance. Just don’t ask me to read your manuscript!