Late Sunday night, I finished what should be the final rewrite of a book I’ve been working on for some time. And when I say final, I don’t mean final. I mean the final private rewrite. I’ve carried the work as far as I can alone. The next part of my process is opening it up to my beta readers.
These are people who I know and trust; people whose reading habits I’m familiar enough with to gauge the worth of their opinions. I hope to get specific feedback on the parts I consider them in expert in and some surprising ideas on the parts I didn’t think they’d care for.
They also need a mix of brutality and sensitivity.
As far as this book goes, it’s been about five years in the writing. I started it shortly after I quit the drugs and drink. While not the only thing I’ve written in that time, it is the project that has consumed most of my working hours. I also lost it to a computer virus and had to start it over.
That is a dreadful sort of thing to go through.
Writing often feels like remembering something that hasn’t happened. Trying to do that while remembering what was written before interferes with the signal.
Shaking that off, slowed the progress.
There’s something to the notion that books come from another place. This was like picking up the message, capturing it but losing it and having to get it back again. I found it but it required a few more adjustments to my mental SETI system than I usually have to make.
Reminds me of the TV my family had when I was a kid. We had one of those rotators. When we lost a channel we’d have to rotate the antennae to pull it back in. The machine would grind away while another person watched the screen to see if anything was coming in. When they saw something, the rotator would be stopped. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
Combine that with a VCR to tape the visible parts and an editing apparatus to reassemble the show and you have some sense of what this one was like for me.
Having said all that, I’m pleased with the result. Not sure if you will be. Not sure if you’ll ever even read it. I wrote the book with no intention of even attempting to sell it.
Had Technicolor Ultra Mall failed to find a publisher, this one would not even be submitted. That’s not a knock on it. But this book’s design breaks submission guidelines.
Maybe now, with a novel short-listed for Canada’s top science fiction prize, (you can vote here) I’ll be granted some flexibility? I don’t know. Guess I’ll find out.
You see –and some of you already know this– I’d given up on the idea of being published. While I continued to write just as much as ever, I had not submitted any of my novels for years after submitting Technicolor Ultra Mall and years before it sold.
By the time I started this one, I viewed submission guidelines or, even readability, as being unwelcome editorial constraints – both related not to the novel as an artform but the novel as a commodity. Since I had no intention of submitting, I felt no need to comply with them.
My writing became not just anti-commercial in content but in execution.
My work became utterly private.
But Technicolor Ultra Mall was much the same. I didn’t think anyone would buy that either and wrote it with that knowledge, which, of course, eventually, turned out to be wrong. If not for the positive reactions of a writer’s group I was then a part of, it would have stayed in my drawer.
So, I sort of have to accept that I have no idea what people buy.
Either way, thinking about it has nothing to do with what I write.
After finishing, I usually feel a mixture of depression and terror. One is never quite sure that they’ll be able to go through all that again. One is a bit miserable that they don’t feel quite ready to quit or die or something. That there’s still other books to write.
While I still feel those things about this one, I also feel relief. It’s more of less done. It’s nice to be able to take a few days, think about what I want to do next and just chill out.
Maybe with a nice glass of milk.