I recently read an article from an author who described the feeling of being ‘between novels’ as being ‘in the hallway‘ – the door to one book has closed, and the door to her next one hasn’t quite opened up yet. I know how she feels, sort of.
I finished the first pass of edits on ‘Emmeline’ (or whatever it’ll end up being called!) on Friday of last week. Soon, I want to begin a second pass. I have a ‘deadline’ (I’m mentally making it seem a lot tougher than, in reality, it actually is) of mid-October to get it back to my agent, and then we’ll see whether I’ve done enough to get the story ready for its first foray into the big bad world of publishing.
I’m in the hallway, except it’s between edits, not books.
Feels much the same, though.
I really want to get started now – mid-October isn’t all that far away, after all. I feel like I’ve done so much work on the book over the past few weeks that surely this second pass of edits will be easy (but that’s a dangerous way to think, which is why I know I’m not ready to get stuck in yet). My mind is still full of Emmeline and her world, the people she meets and the places she sees and the battles she fights – and that’s another reason I know it’s too soon to go over her story. I need to be away from it for a little while, just long enough for it not to seem gloopy when I go back to it.
Gloopy? What’s that, then?
Well, it’s like this. When I try to edit something I’ve written before I’m ready, it’s a bit like trying to walk across quicksand. I get panicky. I start making frankly stupid changes and getting caught up in them and their ramifications and (quite possibly) I allow myself to ignore what really needs to be done instead of what strikes me, straight off, as a superficial problem – which, of course, simply makes things massively worse, even more gloopy, and then I eventually sink. Because the first pass of edits were largely (though not all) fixing things like stupid sentences or getting rid of needless paragraphs or tightening up on description, what I’m left with now are some of the bigger issues, which have been mulling in my mind for the past few weeks as I worked. There aren’t very many big issues with the book – and none of them are unfixable – but I do need to take my time and do them right. Anxiety and panic and ‘oh my God I need to do something and get away from this!’ will not help.
Hence, the hallway. I’m strolling down it, peeking out the windows, stopping to smell the flowers (okay, so maybe it’s more like a cloister than a hallway. Fair enough), having a good old think. I have already fixed some of the foundations of the bigger problems – character motivations, removing an entire person from the story (which was so sickeningly easy, it should have been obvious to me that, like Phoebe in that Friends episode, he ‘just lifted right out’), and overall making things clearer to the reader. It seems stuff that I thought was explained perfectly clearly… wasn’t. This is the problem with writing, I guess – you get so inside your own head that you forget everyone doesn’t live there.
So, now I have a few decisions to make and some clarification to do (and I promise not to use the words ‘snap’, ‘snapped’, ‘just’, ‘then’, ‘massive’, ‘huge’ or ‘gigantic’, or the phrases ‘before she had time to think,’ ‘without thinking,’ ‘without giving herself time to think’ ever again). However, before I get there, I’ve got to ungloop myself.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a hallway to amble down. Catch you at the other end.