Letting Go

08/03/11 4:33 PM

I’m getting ready to email my novel to the folks at eBook Architects. They’re the ones who convert my Word doc file into Mobi (Kindle) and ePub (everything else). Then it will be timeĀ  for me to sell the thing.

We’ve had a long journey, this novel and me, and I’m having a hard time letting it go. I think I may have driven my wonderful and patient copy editor, Laura Matthews, a little crazy this past weekend as I revised the opening page about five times, and each one I sent to her for feedback.

There’s always more you can do, always a phrase you can improve, a thought you can sharpen, a character you can deepen. At some point, you need to let it go. Or so I’ve been told.

The good news? In this digital world in which I choose to work, at least for now, I can easily make changes should a typo be spotted or a modifier dangle. In the print world, those mistakes live on in paper until another print run (provided there is one) or a conversion to paperback.

I’ve published five short stories to Kindle, Nook, etc. since I started this venture last fall. I got my first royalty payments from Amazon and Barnes & Noble this week. You’d think sending this file off wouldn’t be a big deal since I’ve done it five times already. But for some reason, it is. Maybe because it’s my debut novel. Maybe because I’ve worked on this piece since 2001. Then again, maybe it’s normal to feel this way every time you send out such a big part of yourself to the world.

I keep doing searches on words like “really” andĀ  “studies” (which became my new way of saying “look”) and double checking hair and eye color and fact checking some of the history and wavering on whether I should take the risk of including two lines from an Adrienne Rich poem and hoping it qualifies as fair use or plucking them out. I worry that some of my corrections have resulted in typos, so I read and reread until the words swim, as do my eyeballs, and I have to adjust the zoom every page or two so I can trick my brain into spotting any lingering or last-minute mistakes.

I’ve come to this point in a really (sorry, Laura) circuitous way: Mrs. Shea’s fourth grade class, radio, copywriting, creative writing, querying, snobbing on self-publishing, epiphany, self-publishing.

Am I good enough? Who’s to say? What defines “good enough” anyway?

I know I’m not alone in this moment of self-doubt, a moment that I imagine most writers go through right before a work comes out. Anne Lamott writes about it in Bird by Bird on the chapter called “Publication”:

“The first time you read through your galleys is heaven. The second time through, all you see are the typos no one caught. It looks like the typesetter typed it with frostbitten feet, drunk….By the fifth reading, you are no longer sure that publishing this would be in your best interest.”

I’m going to hit “send” now, take a deep breath, have a nervous breakdown, and then get over it and myself.

Until the next time.

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5 Comments on “Letting Go”

  1. Dawn Says:

    Wow! It’s been a long road. Congrats! I like the Anne lamott quote. I don’t ever read anything i wrote in print because i always find embarrassing crap when i do.

  2. Robyn Says:

    Thanks, Dawn. I hear you — I was the same way with articles I wrote for my hometown paper back in the day.

  3. Geoffrey Cubbage Says:

    Did you celebrate with the first royalty payments? I’ve always been a great believer that the first check from something awesome should be spent on, you know, something celebratory. Like booze, or…whatever people without drinking problems celebrate with. You’ll think of something.

  4. Robyn Says:

    @Geoffrey — it’s funny…I almost didn’t notice it until I was doing some online banking yesterday (automatic deposit — sweet!). I think I’ll celebrate more when I reach 1000 sales/month. That will be the first big milestone.

  5. Writerbug Says:

    Congrats Robyn! This is such a momentous occasion! I agree with Geoffrey–you should definitely buy something you can remember the first royalty payment with, even if it’s something small. When I had that essay published in the Globe about Chloe and Brian, I bought a pair of boots (that I’m wearing now), and I still think of how excited I was about the essay when I wear them.