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Let It Go

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Okay, everyone. This is it. I’m proud to report that, true to my word, since my last post I have finished the second draft of my book. Not only that, but I’ve sent it off to FOUR people to read, and will soon give it to a fifth. Now I’m in the position where all I can really do is wait.

Now that I’m waiting and I happen to have some free time (a rarity, but I’m not complaining!), I’m wondering if I should think about picking up an old project. What do you all typically do during this time of waiting? I’m not sure how people feel about working on multiple projects at once. I worked for an agent once who told me that when I was reading through author biographies, I should see multiple unpublished projects as a red flag. Why would you be working on a second book when the first one hadn’t gone anywhere? Obviously you should be putting the time into the first book, to make it up to snuff for publication.

If I believed in that rule, it’s possible that I could never work on anything other than this one book, which maybe just won’t ever sell. Or maybe that’s pessimistic. I also see the point the agent was trying to make–maybe this isn’t a person who’s willing to work hard to get something right. I don’t think I fall into that category, though–I’m doing all of these revisions, am I not?–so maybe I’m in the clear there.

I’ve always been someone who multitasks, whether it’s with my writing or my work or . . . just anything, really. In middle school I used to carry around at least three books with me at all times, because I was reading them all simultaneously, depending on what I was in the mood for. By high school I got with it and knew how nerdy that made me look, so I kept the books in my locker instead of carrying them through the halls, but you see where I’m going with this. I remember in college there was a rule that we could only take one creative writing course at a time, and that was always confusing to me. Why can’t I take screenwriting and fiction writing at the same time? Why can’t I have multiple ideas for multiple stories and be working on all of it at once?

The funny thing about my book is that it really isn’t what I planned to finish first when I thought about the way I would start writing. I was actually pretty far into a different project, but I had to start a novel for my creative writing thesis at Barnard, and the young adult project I was working on wasn’t “serious” enough, so I picked up some characters I’d had kicking around in other writing assignments and started what is, now, my nearly finished book. It’s still young adult, but drastically more serious than the Meg Cabot-y, angsty teen novel I had been working on before (and which, honestly, I feel more excited about finishing).

If you’ve made a habit of reading my blog posts (bless you), you’ll know that making time to write is something that I’ve struggled with before. As a result, I’ve gotten in the habit of writing whenever I have thirty minutes or more of free time. Now that I’ve sent this book off to readers, I’m looking at my free time and feeling compelled to write, but not sure if I should be working on something else or waiting for this book to come back to me.

Like I said in my last post–I’m actually not that nervous about the comments from the readers. I’m excited to see their thoughts and to make the final changes before I take this thing to the next level, whatever that is.

So my question to all of you is this: What do you do while you’re waiting for beta readers to give you feedback? Do you prefer to work on multiple projects at a time, or to just focus on one until it is completely finished? And what’s “finished,” anyway?

P.S. The title of this blog post is a reference to my attitude about sending the book off to readers, and if anyone needs encouragement to make a move like that, I encourage you to watch this clip from Frozen. If she can build an ice castle in three minutes, you can submit your writing to readers!

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Almost There

All right everybody, here it comes. I know I’ve been doing a lot of procrastination blogging lately, where talk about what’s next, but I don’t really talk about what’s happening with my book or how much I am (or am not) working on it. But I’m here to tell you that this post, this very one that you are reading now, is not going to be like that; no, this one is different.

Because I’m almost done.

Yeah, I said it. I only have about thirty pages left of my initial draft to go through before I’m ready to send it out to the next round of readers. (Sorry Dad, but that still might not mean you yet. Let me sleep on that.) I thought that I would be more nervous about this, but I’m finding that I’m actually more anxious to just get the thing off, and excited to have some more eyes on the work to tell me if what I’m working on is actually worth all of this.

I mentioned before that I sent the initial draft to the people I thought would be my harshest critics, and I did that for two reasons: First, I could take their criticism more easily if I knew that the draft they had was the first, most rough one. Not my best work! Obviously needs improvement! I plan to do better!

Second, I knew that they would have the most extensive changes, and I trusted them to tell me the hard truth about structural problems and narrative arcs that weren’t making sense or needed more elaboration. I revised with these comments open next to me, in addition to my own, which I made with what I hope was an eye just as critical. I feel good about the revisions; I have no doubt I’m sitting on a better story then I was before, and it’s thirty pages longer!

This time the biggest thing I’m looking for is how the story affects the readers. I’m going to give it to a few people who like different kinds of books, just to see what they think. Most of all, I want to make sure that the story leaves them with a feeling, even if it’s not the feeling I’m trying to go for. Any feeling is better than boring, am I right?

I’m hoping it won’t take too long for the comments to come back to me, because warm weather always makes me feel insanely productive, and once summer hits I’ll be in grad school land, debating Shakespeare’s true identity with other nerds in Vermont. At that point I’ll have to go through and do what (I hope) will be the final revision, and then I really have to figure out what’s next.

Choosing Carefully

Now that the second draft of my novel is creeping into sight, I’m starting to think about who I should ask to read the second draft. I have a few people in mind, but it occurred to me last week that none of my second-round readers had read the previous draft, which got me thinking about whether or not that matters.

I’ve definitely heard of the term “fresh eyes” (who hasn’t, right?), and I agree with it when it comes to proofreading. It’s so hard to notice errors when you’ve already looked at something once. That’s one of the reasons I like to print things and mark them up when I’m editing. And as a writer, I also feel like it’s hard to see structural issues in your own work sometimes, especially when you’ve been shifting things around and storyboarding and outlining for who knows how long. I believe in taking a step back and trusting other people to take a look and let you know what needs work.

What I’m wondering is, is it worth it to have first-round readers take a look at the second draft? I can see the benefit of comparison here—these people haven’t been doing all of the shifting, they just read the first draft, and and if they now read the second, they would probably notice the differences (or the places where I failed to make a significant difference). I think that could be genuinely helpful, but I also wonder how many reads a person can do before it’s just not as effective to ask them anymore.

I also see the pros and cons of asking fresh readers to look at the second draft. They don’t know where the book started, which I think is probably more pro than con—in a way they’re getting a first look, so they don’t feel bad about how much work I may have already done on a certain part, because they have no idea. Maybe that’s the most important thing to me. I want to be sure I’m getting honest feedback.

I gave my first draft to the person I thought would be my harshest, but most honest, critic. I want these critiques to be just as honest, but maybe a little less brutal. At this point I’ve spent so much time reworking certain things that I think I need some feedback that’s certainly just as honest, but maybe a little sugarcoated.

How do you all feel? Do you use the same readers for at least two reads, or do you change it up with every draft? Are there certain people you really trust who read every page of every draft? Let me know in the comments below!