Tuesday, July 17, 2007

After All The Stops And Starts

They say that writing a book is like dropping a rose petal in the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo. I suppose that's true. I'm sitting here staring over the edge of my hoped-for success. No echos. Not yet.

The frustration builds daily. It seems I've put my life on hold. Although there are certain family obligations that must be met, I've pulled away from writers' meetings, open-mic nights, and "fun stuff" I usually run to throughout the week. I don't answer every little email. Eventually, you have to get those little duckies all in a row and make choices. Strange how I've rescheduled most of writing life to ... write.

I choose to finish this book.

And yet, daily I have a mountain to climb. My problem is still the book's length. I'm struggling with it. I've already cut the book by a third, but I've had to add in pieces to strengthen areas and more specifically, show all dimensions of my antagonist. I've changed the ending, taken out lots of fluff, stripped over 100 pages, and (sigh) I'm still looking at a fat book.

The hard part is the struggle within me. Do I ignore the thousands of articles and advice from agents/editors/teachers/mentors who boldy declare, "Slim it, trim it, and grin and bear it, otherwise no publisher's going take a chance on a fat book." "Kill your babies." "150,000 words is the magic number!" "Take out what doesn't move the story forward!"

Problem is, in my honest-to-God opinion ... what I've left in is critical to moving the story forward. Now what do I do?

I realize those bottom-line dollars are sacred to the big dogs in New York. Fat books cost more money to produce, and who's going to take a chance on a (basically) unknown middle-aged woman from Greensboro, North Carolina? I've blogged about it, defended it, stated my defense, pouted, screamed, and threw hissy fits over it. But like my daddy says, "A pig's a pig. Ain't no use callin' it a rooster." There are decisions to be made. More choices to consider. Do I have to self publish to get this into the hands of readers again? Or will somebody bite on this?

I guess this is the part where faith steps in.

I feel like Tom Hanks. In Forrest Gump he ran from one coast to the other. Finally, he stopped and went home. In You've Got Mail he went after something he never had before, true love. At the end of Castaway he stood in the middle of a crossroads, hoping never to see water again, and made a decision to follow the wings that had really saved him. He realized it wasn't the picture of Kelly in the watch, although it had given him comfort. It was the FedEx package with the wings that had propelled his determination to fight for his life.

My past, all wrapped up in a FedEx box, gives me the determination to sit here every day and finish. After all the stops and starts, I'm within days of finishing. It's tight, and yet I have to play Sophie's Choice. How do I do that? I've got to make a raft, find a ship, fly home, save what's left of me and publish this book.

If anybody has an inner tube out there they can throw me ...

Blessings to you and yours.


Dena said...

GREAT post Pam. And if it brings any comfort, follow the Eastern philosophy that there really is no such thing as a wrong choice. Every choice you make is the one that's needed to be made for you to "learn" whatever particular lesson your soul needs in this life. So if you decide to offer agents and publishing houses a big, fat book--that's the right choice. Just like it's the right choice if you decide to trim. Kind of confusing, but I find comfort in knowing I can't make a wrong decision. Listen to what your book editors tell you, then trust your gut. I am extremely confident that big or small word-wise, this book is going to be a smashing success.

KathyH said...

I wish I had a word or a sentence that would clear your head,answer all your questions,and relieve your anxiety. But I can't. Only the quote from Gertrude Stein comes to mind--"Allow me to listen to myself". Easier said than done. Just know there are friends and aquaintances in the stands cheering for you.