It’s in the box, on its way into the great unknown. Within that box: angst, inspiration, fears, longing and untold hours of my attention are making their first journey to a potential publisher. My novel.
My insights, thus far:
1. It’s a good, good feeling (I’m short on adjectives at this point in the game). Because even if it doesn’t get accepted this time around, or the next, and so on, it’s still a milestone I wasn’t sure I’d ever reach. Normally, I write short fiction. This time, I wrote a lot of words that connect into one big story. Perhaps that’s why it has 101 chapters?
2. There is something unique about printing the whole thing off and wrapping it carefully in cardboard and tape: it feels real. Solid. Tangible. In a world of rapid-fire exchanges online, it’s become easy to feel detached about attachments. A file here, a file there, it’s all become a bit humdrum. But real words on real paper, well, wow. I put all those words together. I could seriously injure someone with that former tree.
3. Human eyes read words differently on paper. I have been printing off sections of this baby for years now, editing as I go, giving copies to friends and family for feedback. But I’ve been editing on screen as well, and moving things around, and tinkering, and it wasn’t until I printed off a complete hard copy that I was aware of what I’d missed. And what I wanted to change.
I’m talking about making a change on nearly ever page. Nothing substantive. Nothing that would change the plot or characters or motivations or outcome. Just little things here and there that might make the difference between an editor saying “yes” or “next.”
I’m sure I’ve still missed things. I could have gone over it another ten times before sending it. But I reached a level of satisfaction, at least at that moment or reprinting, and I have mailed it off.
4. It feels like a part of my brain has been removed. A part I grew especially for this book, a place where a town went about its business, a family lived, people died and loved and made impulsive decisions. And I don’t miss this part of my brain, because it’s not gone; it’s both in the mail and backed up elsewhere. I can let something else grow in there now.
5. I have a lot of people to thank for making this work possible, everyone from babysitters to my wonderful writing groups to mentors to the Canada Council. And my family. They’ve lived with me through all of it. Especially my husband, who’s heard every possible plot twist, dialogue issue and frustration; made meals; kept me sane. Thank you, one and all.
6. I’m back to focusing on short stories now, and that feels great. But I’m thinking of writing another novel. In fact, the next one’s already begun creating a space in my head. Onward, ho. But first, a nice long stretch for my back, which much prefers movement to sitting in front of a notebook or screen, and a celebratory drink. Cheers!