A couple of weeks back I wrote about finishing a manuscript and then sending it to my editor two days before it was—by contract—due. She received it graciously but let me know that because of her own press of work, she would not be getting back to it until early next year. This is the current state of publishing: Overworked editors, inadequate staffing. Like the rest of America.
The way I work it is often the case that when I send a book in do I have (hopefully) a full sense of what the book is about. Typically, only during the last few days of work (after a year or so) do I write the ending. That’s because I like my ending to flow out of the book, letting it emerge (and surprising me) out of the feelings that proceeds it. If it doesn’t sound too goofy to suggest—if I don’t have strong emotions as I write that ending—I don’t think it’s right.
To paraphrase Robert Frost: No emotions for the writer, no emotions for the reader.
This time-lapse, before revisions start in earnest, allows me to go back to the book. (I did have to meet that deadline) I’m not looking to make big changes. But the whole now informs the parts, so, I find myself making lots of small changes. Bits. Pieces. Nuances. Right words. All of which gives depth to the humanity of the story—assuming it has come.
At this point, I am not so much writing the book, as the book is telling me where to make additions (or subtractions), changes, and word choices—all small, but I think vital. I’m experiencing the book as something real, not merely a fabrication, and adjusting accordingly.
I believe—it’s what makes writing hard—that everything in a story needs to be interconnected, all one logical and emotional line first to last. It’s the small things that make a book good.
Do I succeed in achieving that? Surely, far from always. But, to the extent that I do, I will have a far better book.
And in my spare time, I am working out the storyline of a new book. I’ll tell you how it works out in a year.
“So it goes,” to quote Kurt Vonnegut.