Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hell Week

It's such a relief to be back. To my blog I mean. And life. And eating something other than cold pizza, and pickles straight from the jar. Looking back at what I just wrote, you'd think I was coming out of the sleep-deprived, hazy coma of having a new baby. But no – that little slice of heaven is coming in February. On the contrary, what I just survived was actually far more painful. I got a crash course in editing my first book. One hundred and twenty thousand words of manuscript edited in one week.

I'd fallen into a trap that most new authors probably dive headfirst into as well, and my little hallucination came back to bite me on the ass with steel jaws. I thought I was a half-decent writer. After letting my nearest and dearest read the version of Murdering Eve that had been accepted for a book contract, as well as winning an award for the story, I ridiculously thought it was halfway well written, especially since everyone told how WONDERFUL it was. Ha! Though I will say that I'm proud of the creativity of the story and the way it all came together, my editor very kindly pointed out that my technical writing skills were a smidgen less than perfect.

I have learned that I commit a multitude of sins when I write, like dangling modifiers, split infinitives, the proper use of farther/further. These are the devils in the details that separate a ho-hum writer from good one. And strangely, we're all supposed to know these rules no later than 9th grade English class. To know I make these mistakes is incredibly humbling; and correcting them was an excruciating process from which I don't know if I'll ever recover. Just kidding, after the first night in a week (last night) that I actually slept more than four or five hours, I'm feeling better already. But it's going to take a while to get back to the confident, happy-go-lucky lady I was before. If I weren't pregnant, I'd be a lot better by now, probably having downed a bottle of good wine last night by myself. Never underestimate the healing and regenerative power of a bottle of booze. But as it stands, I'll have to bounce back with rest, time with my kiddo, and eating something that doesn't come straight out of the refrigerator.

Just because I want to share my experiences with you vicariously, and because I'm an incessant whiner, I wanted to take you through the process I recently survived. Not the actual work of course, I like you too much, but the daily emotions I experienced as I made my way through the week.

Day 1 – Tuesday, late afternoon. File arrives from editor with a full page of notes in the body of the email with, "Here are the things you need to be looking for and changing as you make your way through the manuscript. They may or may not be noted on the pages." I pick myself up off the floor, and then I open the file. Red text flashes across the screen, making me squint from the brightness of the glare. I pick myself up off the floor again. Taking a deep breath, I close the file and walk out to my husband. He sees my face, and instantly assumes someone is dead. Not exactly, but I can't deal with the overwhelming emotions. I'll start tomorrow.

Day 2 – Wednesday. I get through 25 pages in the first 4 hours. I'm worried about how much time its taking, but feeling ok. My editor has done a "heavy edit" on the first 30+ pages, pointing out each and every error, so I've got a good roadmap. Surely, I'm going to get better at this as I get the hang of it.

Day 3 – Thursday. Holy shit, I'm taking the day off at my "real" job tomorrow. This is a frigging nightmare. I'm not going to finish by my deadline, which is next Tuesday. My husband is leaving the next morning for a business trip. He's got to provide coverage for a hospital over the weekend, and I'm going to be all alone with our four year old. Oh, hell no. I call my mom, and she agrees to take the munchkin for the weekend after her soccer game on Saturday morning. Thank God.

Day 4 – Friday. After editing ten hours straight other than pee breaks-which are all too frequent because I have a little person lying on my bladder-and food runs to the fridge, I take a break to speak to my kid. One of her friends comes over, and I order enough pizza to get me through the duration. Her friend goes home and my daughter goes to bed after three hours away from the computer. I go back to work until 2 a.m. I cry. A lot.

Day 5 – Saturday. It's post soccer game and I'm home alone with no distractions. The heavy edit notes have been long-gone for days, and I have to find, and correct, most of my own problems. The pace has slowed considerably. I'm no longer averaging 6 pages an hour. Including re-writes that have now become necessary because I've matured as a writer since last year when the story was drafted, I find minor logic problems that MUST be fixed. My eyes are burning, my back is screaming, and I can't feel my legs. At 3 a.m. I call it quits, because I don't even understand the storyline anymore. Why did I write this damn thing, anyway?

Day 6 – Sunday, last full day to work on edits unless I want to get fired from day job. I throw up, and it's not because I'm pregnant. I wake up at 7 a.m. and make coffee. My stomach is in revolt most of the day, but I refuse to spare the 15 minutes to either make something to eat or run to get fast food. Cardboard pizza it is. I break around 5:30 p.m. to brush my teeth for the first time that day, and put on clothes to go pick up my kiddo from my mom. We meet at Applebee's, and I can't control the urge to eat something. Two plates of food later, I'm feeling better. When the kid goes to bed, I'm back at it until 1 a.m.

Day 7 – Monday morning. I'm shaky and tired, and I'm pretty sure the baby in my belly is pissed off at me. By late afternoon, I beg the nanny to take the kid to ice skating lessons so I can edit. She stays late, God bless her. About midnight, I get an email from the cover artist with the mock-up of the cover for the book. I sob hysterically, thinking everything might actually come together. I edit until 3:30 in the morning. The kid wakes up at 4 a.m. with a nightmare. You've got to be shitting me.

Deadline day – Tuesday. I'm so tired. I've only got about 10 pages left to finish, then I need to run back through and do all the last minute stuff like run a final spell check, do a "find" on some the words I need to make sure are consistent through the document, and do some finishing touches. "I can do this," I say to myself. Turns out, I can. I hit send on the file to my editor. I laugh out loud. I cry. I become paralyzed with fear I've done it all wrong, or missed a million errors. A few hours later, an email comes from my editor. She tells me it looks great. She'll start the detailed review in the morning, and then expects to send it directly to pre-production. She writes that although I may think I have a lot of bad habits, I am really well-advanced, esp. for a new writer. I do a dance that looks ridiculous with a rounded, pregnant belly. I couldn't care any less….

This morning – I receive my final cover art and banner, which is now posted on the right so you can see it. Life is good.

After spending so much time at the computer this past week, you'd think I wouldn't want to sit down and blog, but the honest truth is that I've missed it. There are no rules here. I can start my sentences with "And", and you guys don't care. I can put, commas, and; semi-colons, anywhere I damn well want. J Hardy, har…. (that last sentence was a joke, just in case my editor sees this blog post). Therefore, I took my lunch hour early during a break in meetings to write freestyle and it's never felt quite so good.

New posts coming soon – I'm all jazzed up for Halloween, and will be spending some time researching and writing about all the spooky, creepy traditions of different cultures/religions. The level of bizarre will get ratcheted up for a while, let me tell ya.

Hugs and kisses to all.

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