I was reading The Book Designer a while back and this jumped out at me:
“What might take an author years to produce, we read in a few days. We naturally compress the story into a short time, especially if it grabs our interest. We want to keep reading, or get to the next lesson.
So the time it takes for a reader to get from the first chapter to the last is very short compared to how long it took to write them. Or to edit and rewrite them. This magnifies any inconsistencies in the book. They are just a lot more obvious.”
Nothing could be more true. For the last several months we’ve been immersed in feedback from our focus groups. All of it has been great. The group really dug in and put as much consideration into their reviews as we did telling the story. Overall, the main goals of a solid story and memorable characters was reached.
Nothing in the world feels better to an author than knowing a reader laughs in all the right places, or picks up the clues you’ve carefully planted, or has that moment of overwhelming emotion just like you did when you wrote it.
What more could an author ask for?
A Little Confidence, Please?
Confidence. Yes. Buckets of it. Deep in your heart you know you’re good, you’ve been told that many times already. Maybe that’s what spurred you on to take the plunge and start that novel.
Ah, but behind the curtain it’s a different scene, isn’t it? The turmoil lurking right below the skin is stronger than a hurricane boiling off the coast. You’ve got opening night jitters. Wondering if you’ll hit your mark, if you’ll remember all your lines and praying your voice doesn’t crack when you go to hit that high note.
Every author hopes they’ve found all the typos the Tyops Demons throw in every time our backs are turned, and whether or not the book will sell. No matter how hard you try to catch everything, there’s always something that will escape your attention.
Get Out of the Garage
Back in the day I had a few musician friends. They could brandish an axe and pound out the beats like nobody’s business. They’d practice and practice, battle with each other’s egos nearly every session and work hard to polish their set list. All of them had hopes of making it big, certain that recording contract was right around the corner of the next gig.
The problem? Their struggles had nothing to do with their skills and everything to do with perfection. They never got out of the garage.
The same goes for many budding authors. I know a lot of writers who are absolutely brilliant. The stories they tell are fantastic and I marvel at the twists and turns they create. Some do decide to write that dream novel, but ask them if you can read it you may be met with “It’s not ready! No, I can’t possibly show it to anyone!”
That’s a shame, really. I see them suffering from the same garage syndrome as my musician friends.
This past week, Wendi and I spent some time at Christine Kane’s Uplevel LIVE in Asheville, North Carolina. One of the first things Christine told us was don’t be afraid of being imperfect. Imperfections are what make us real, help us grow and most of all, shows others that we’re only human and mistakes are okay.
It’s okay for your novel, too. I’m not saying release it with a bazillion errors, you still have to do all you can to catch those. What I am saying is having someone read your first, second, third or tenth draft is one of the best things you can do for your novel. So what if it’s not perfect? It’s not supposed to be.
The feedback you receive from your focus group is extremely valuable. They will see things you haven’t. There’s a lot to be said for several pairs of fresh eyes.
Fly Baby, Fly!
On the last day of the retreat, we sat on the Sunset Terrace of the Grove Park Inn with two of our colleagues. Wendi and I each had our final FINAL draft manuscripts with us. As we discussed the release of the novel, I handed my draft to the woman next to me and said, “Read the prologue and tell me what you think.” Wendi did the same on the other side of the table.
One woman was in our novel’s demographic, the other wasn’t. Both read and wanted more. More discussion followed and at one point I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, “Here, take this with you. Read the whole thing. All I want is a review in return.”
Wendi looked at me with a look of terror on her face, “We can’t do that!” She laughed nervously, “It’s got mistakes in it!”
“So?” I shrugged, “It’s just a few typos and minor adjustments we need to make. Everything else is there.”
Embrace imperfection and let it go. This was a very telling moment for me in particular since a year ago I would have had that same “Oh no!” response.
Have confidence that you’ve done all you could do to get that first draft polished. Have faith in yourself. You’ve raised this “child” and gave it all it needed to face the world. Know when to let it go. If your readers blaze through it in a day or two, you’d best believe you did your job well. And if all they can say about it is “You missed a typo on page 545.”, then I’d say they’re being picky and couldn’t find anything else to complain about.
But your real fans? They won’t care. They’ll still adore you and want more.