A little over a week ago I received some news that came just when my house was about to be overtaken by family for Father’s Day. And the news wasn’t good. In previous posts, I’ve mentioned a few times, and hopefully not so much that I’ve come across as being whiny, my concerns about this third book I’m writing.
To back up just a moment, back in early March and on into early April, I began to work on the premise of this book. I’d already started a third story, but after a lengthy discussion with my agent, John Talbot, I chose to begin fresh. I did this because I shared with him what I had in mind as the topic for the fourth book. Well, he got very excited, and his enthusiasm for its potential affected me to the point I thought, “wow, he’s really pumped up about this idea.” So, I put aside the close to 10,000 words I’d written thus far, and I began fresh, on this new story.
I worked, worried, worked and worried some more. This went on for weeks. I questioned everything about the story. I read quite a bit of it out loud. The words that came to mind as I heard myself were “hokey, dumb, weak, and hokey,” again. I kept on though, because in the back of my mind, I thought reading out loud always sounds bad, doesn’t it? I’d even thought about recording it, so I could hear it like an audio book, just to be sure it was as bad as it sounded in my head.
I should have been listening to my gut instead. Your gut ALWAYS knows.
After I got the first 100 pages down, I thought, (and at least I followed my gut here) I ought to let Caroline read this. I need her to give me feedback before I go any further. On Wednesday, June 12th, I sent her the 100 pages. She wrote back almost immediately and said she was very excited to have the pages, but she was swamped. She asked for two weeks. That was standard for our working together, and I wrote back, “No problem, take the time you need.”
And I tried to forget about it.
Imagine my surprise when four days later I received an email from her, and suffice it to say it was not good. It was the harshest criticism she’s given me to date. In some ways maybe I knew it was going to be bad, but in some ways, I think I was blinded by all the good things she’s said in the past. She was brutal, and apologetic about being brutal. I wrote back to her and said, “it’s okay, I’d rather know now, than to put 350-400 pages of crap on your desk.”
I plastered on a happy face for my family and we celebrated my father (79) and my father in law (also 79), and it was good to have them there…even though I did have to slink off a couple times to have a bit of a pity party for myself. After the crowd left, and things quieted down, I thought I’d have a meltdown moment, but…, I didn’t. I just felt a bit numb, and sick to my stomach, and…embarrassed.
On Tuesday, I sat back down at my computer, and yet again, opened up a brand new Word doc. And, the thing is, since Tuesday, my fingers are flying and my mind is whirring. I’ve also backed off of any daily goal. I decided if I have something to write, something to add to this story, then I’ll put it down and leave it at that. It seemed like no time and I’ve got 6000 words. The story reads like someone else wrote it – I have no idea if that’s good or bad.
I also updated my agent about her tough critique, and he said, “Everything’s tough in this business, but Caroline has keen insight and you have rare talent, so hopefully, all this works out nicely!” Needless to say, his generous compliment lifted my spirits. And it also helped that exactly a week to the day of having received that harsh criticism, I was among one of the three winners of a little writing contest on another agent’s blog. The prize? A book by a client of the agent, called “NINE YEARS UNDER.”
So. Here I am, it’s Monday morning, and I am at my computer. I am ready to write, ready to improve my story, ready to add a few more words, and all the more determined to keep at it.
My question for all of you is this…, can you handle the truth? And when you get it, does it inspire you or does it make you question, just what in the hell am I doing?