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Virgin In The Church
April 2002, #10: Letting Go

--By Scott Nicholson

(Intro: I sold my first novel "The Red Church" through the slush pile. It will be released as a mass market paperback by Pinnacle Books in June 2002. I'm sharing my experiences in hopes that other writers can learn from my triumphs and mistakes, and, of course, to generate interest in the book. Scott's rule number one: build your audience one reader at a time.)

New writers who dream of having a novel on the bookstore shelves may not believe this, but I expect the veterans understand: a writer eventually reaches a point where he becomes sick of his own book.

After going through multiple drafts of your novel before it hits the mail, and once more after an editor gives some suggestions while rejecting it, then going over the copy-edited manuscript, you are quite ready to wash your hands of the whole thing. But then one day the proof pages arrive, and you must once more go over the same tiresome story.

Except this time, if the process has been conducted carefully thus far, there are not even enough errors to keep the writer attentive. Yet it is the last go-round, the last chance for an author to touch up minor boo-boos and catch any layout errors. So the writer has to go over it even more carefully than he did the first half-dozen times.

The good news is that, at this point, the writer probably won’t find himself drawn into the story, no matter how compelling the plot and characters are. He wonders if he indeed authored this travesty, and if the thing is even in English. He fights off the urge to begin a massive revision, or to salvage his ruined career before it’s even started by dumping the thing in the trash. But maybe that’s why contracts exist, because the author knows he’s spent the advance and will have trouble rounding up enough cash to repay the publisher.

The author is ready to let go, to put some distance between himself and these feelings and thoughts he had some months or years before. It’s time to send the thing into the world, to kick it from the nest and see if its wings work.

So the proof goes back to the publisher, and the author is glad to have the nightmare gone from his life. Except, of course, he has another one in the works, and probably a revision of a different completed novel underway, and if he’s especially cursed he has a contract for the next book so the whole crazy cycle repeats itself.

And the goal is to end up with twenty of the things out in the world, floating around and inflicting the minds and emotions of thousands of unseen readers. No wonder writers are renowned for having mental problems. To be so arrogant as to think their dreams matter, that their words are worth the slaughter of innocent trees, that their crafted lies justify self-absorbed and neglectful behavior, why, it’s nearly unforgivable, and possibly punishable in the afterlife.

Yet the writer keeps returning to the keyboard, ready to tell more tall tales. But he also has to promote the book that will soon hit the shelves, talk to bookstore owners and managers, stay active on the Internet, and dream up publicity gimmicks. These things have little to do with writing, except for someday contributing to the writer’s ability to afford spending even more time writing. So the writer can become even more self-absorbed.

And even sicker of his own writing. But hopefully those new to the words and story will not see them in an adversarial light. With luck, and if the author has applied a little skill, the story will mean something. The novel might enrich the reader’s life. And the book will be worth the price of admission.

(This article is uncopyrighted and may be freely distributed and published, as long as Scott’s byline and web address are included.)

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