My comparative online silence has been me doing the pre-edits for The Vessel of Ra for Curiosity Quills. I’ve been pretty open about my writing journey throughout these last several years, and I thought you might enjoy a little conversation about the process.
For those of you who don’t know me, I teach writing, mostly to students whose first language is not English, but occasionally to native speakers of English as well. We writing teachers are all about the multiple drafts. Take time to revise, polish, proof, fix. This is vital for someone who is writing in a language not their own, and important for students who might be less than perfect in their grammar and writing.
Well. I don’t know whether it’s the 30 years (if you start counting from my first TAship) that I’ve been reading student papers, or if it’s that I am a person who likes to cross things off my list, BUT I am the worst proofreader of my own stuff. Hey, there are theories that everyone is, but I do know I expect more of myself because I work with other people’s writing mistakes for a living. I have never had the happy ability to be someone who can spot a typo across a crowded room (I’m looking at you, Lisa Martincik!). Honestly, with my own work, I think I have cleared all the mistakes out to find that they have magically crept back in when I look at it two weeks later. Hmmm. Sounds like someone needs an editor.
Well, thanks to the fine folks at Curiosity Quills, I have an editor. I had my first round of edit suggestions with pre-edit notes which were mostly grammatical and formatical (is that a word? It is now!) And I was astounded at how poorly edited the last half of the novel was. Because surely I had been more careful than that! And there it was! Imposter syndrome! I’d just gotten lucky to have my book accepted, because you know, that last half was soooo unworthy!
As I worked my way through my embarrassment and self-disappointment, I realized what I tell my students is true. Revise, revise, revise. Give yourself time and distance between drafts. I am a perfectionist, but drafting is a process. Words will not fall from my mouth in all of their golden splendor, perfect the first time. I have to revise and revise and revise and I will get to a bright and shiny draft. And I’ll get that opportunity a lot. And each time the book will shine more.
So. There are a couple of myths about writing that experience is teaching me are myths. Writing is solitary. Not so much. Support from people around you, good feedback at every level, and people to even help you with the psychology of it, these are invaluable. Myth the second? The book is a product. Nope, guys, it looks like the book is also a process, and just like a term paper, we eventually abandon it because we run out of time, but there will always be ways to make it better.