Monday, January 30, 2012

A Little Help from My Friends

'It's a kind of zen question: if you write a book and no one reads it, is it really a book?' Lee Child

An inevitable and terrifying step in getting other people to read a book I've written is to foist it off on my publisher. Not because she's evil incarnate - Marci's supportive, upbeat and genuinely wants to give new writers a shot in the business. Not because the process beyond the contract is a fire-breathing, sharp-eyed editor.

It's because....somebody might read it.

Yesterday, I sent out a manuscript to Wild Child Publishing, beginning the process of acceptance (never guaranteed), editing and eventual release. This one is tentatively called a Miracle of Zeros and Ones, the story of a police woman and a stalker.

I've been amazingly lucky. Aside from all of the support I've gotten from the publisher, friends and family have pitched in whenever I needed help. Unless you've read a first-draft manuscript, you'll never know how dreary reading can be. I guess that some writers get it right the first time, but that sure as hell isn't me. Although I've taken out most of the typos and the exceedingly crummy grammar, the story is still a little rough. Often, I've gotten infatuated with a scene and just written the hell out of it, only to discover that readers are bored out of their skulls. Plot twists are confusing and unnecessary, characters are wooden and misshapen and the ending leaves everyone with a huge case of "You brought me all this way just to tell me THAT?! WTF, dude." Not good news, but it's way better to get it in the first round.

Those first-edition readers are my heroes. Their desire to help, patience with rough material and candor are one of the main reasons anything I've written has been published.

I'm especially indebted to the subject matter experts who endure endless questions, pointless repetition and the dreaded notebook sessions. I've written about them - the women especially - who are willing to give me their perspective knowing that I'm writing things down for a reason. Karen Sorenson is having a bad pregnancy day? I didn't just make up her inner voice, I have a friend who was willing to share some insights. Amy Painter facing a life-altering decision? A couple of wonderful police women made sure I knew that my character had made the decision long before I "discovered" it.

If you want to know the other heros in this saga, it's my family. Imagine being someplace fun, say...a cruise to Belize City in December, and have to spend time wondering how "Karen and Adam" would interact. My poor wife often rolls her eyes, takes a deep breath and gamely offers her opinion. My kids have gotten used to the text messages or Facebook chats looking for twenty-something verbage (a friend at work suggested Jersey Shore for that. I tried it. None of my characters are Snooki). Honest to God, I once asked one of my daughters if she knew an expression for "meaningless sex." Fortunately, she's in her twenties so it's not as icky as it sounds. And - she's a writer...of course she had an answer (bootie call, and it fit perfectly within the scene and made it to publication).

Writers may toil alone, but the act of "getting published" takes so much help, so many others who believe in the project, that even turning in a manuscript for evaluation requires not a somber, self-evaluation of how hard it is. It is a triumph for all of the sacrifices other people have made to get me there.

Thanks, my friends. You got me there again.

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