The incessant revisions I make to my manuscript have pushed my husband to the brink of insanity. I’ve reworked the first page of the novel at least a dozen times. After each face-lift, no matter how minute the changes, I pin him down and force him to read it all over again. He’s come to wince at the words “what do you think of this…”
Gone are the days of editing in broad strokes, fixing major plot issues or reworking characters. Now, I agonize over single-word corrections, sometimes for upwards of 20-30 minutes—should it be gape or gaze, peer, gloat…(maybe my husband isn’t the only one loosing his mind). At some point, I just need to put the manuscript down and let good be good enough. Actually, I probably passed that juncture weeks ago and have been driving aimlessly since, achieving little, if any, meaningful headway.
It’s tough making peace with imperfection! After writing In Cold Blood, Truman Capote spent decades crafting his next novel and died before its completion. The recently published and critically acclaimed novel The Art of Fielding took ten years to write (yes, it sold to Little, Brown and Company for more than $250,000—but when you divide that by ten, it’s barely a livable annual salary).
Part of me has always been this way—both neurotic and self-conscious enough to idolize perfection. There’s also the pressure of being a first-time writer. I’ve allowed the literary soothsayers to petrify me with the idea that a single, tiny mistake will land my novel in the slush-pile (for those of you outside the biz, that’s a fancy term for recycling bin). In this overcrowded and tumultuous market, maybe they’re right. But I can’t let fear of failure hold hostage my manuscript.
So today is my last day of revisions!
Well, at least until it’s sold to a publisher, then I’m sure they’ll solicit a whole new round of edits (which I’ll gladly provide, along with my right arm and firstborn child).
Now I just need to let go of the inane pursuit of crafting a perfect query letter and I might actually get somewhere….