I am in Revision Mode. I finished my novel a few weeks ago - for the second time, by the way. I started sketching out ideas for Safira's story in 2009, while I was still teaching. I finished the first version (beta-read, revised and everything) in April 2012. But I knew there was something off about the MS. It was the story I wanted to tell, but it was like Frankenstein's monster before the electricity - there was no life, no spark. A lot was lost in translation between my mind and the page. So I worked on something else. I got half of a new book written.
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Right now I feel like I've chased myself up a tree and lit it on fire. My anxiety is through the roof. I feel pressured to query this fall. From careful observation of the writing world over the past few years, I have concluded with considerable certainty that fall is the best time to query. The deadline is the holidays - Thanksgiving, then Christmas. By mid-December, most agents are closed to queries until after the new year.
What's pulling directly against the time constraint is my fear that this book needs time. I've been reading lots of books - some about writing, most just examples of great writing - and with every new thing I read, I gain an insight into my book and a few more ideas for how to make it better. If I kept reading, how long would this go on? Please don't say indefinitely because that is my fear. Yet I know it's true. Practice leads to improvement. With every new thing I read and every new thing I write, I am convinced that I will become a better writer.
So when agents say "Show me your best work," if I take that literally, then they're in for a long wait, because I wouldn't be able to query until I'd spent a lifetime writing. I'm sure you can see the practical implications of this plan. While a lot of writers hit their peak with their first book, I know I'm not one of those people. I'm the kind whose future work will be better than what I write now, even if the ideas aren't necessarily better. And a huge catalyst toward making me better is publication. Having professionals and countless unknown readers give my book a chance and react to it, that will give me feedback unlike anything I can get from the small circle of well-loved beta readers I have now.
I feel frenetic - another favorite word, although not a nice feeling - like my muscles are itching under my skin and there's a tornado in my brain. I'm alternating between research, reading, planning revisions, reading notes from betas, and doing comforting things to ease my anxiety. I've probably spent 30% of my time lately just coping with the stress of whatever this phase of the writing process is. I've downloaded some new music (and I've been playing it as LOUD as possible). I've napped when I can, done my make-up for no particular reason (I usually don't unless I'm leaving the house for something other than groceries), watching movies - which feels just like reading and gives me the same number of new ideas for my book.
I think what this all comes down to is the idea of giving order to chaos. Chaos is an inevitable result of the passage of time. Right now my MS is chaotic because the margins are filled with notes telling me to revise. I know that if I can just focus on those notes, incorporate them into the book (i.e., REVISE) then the notes will go away and order - in the form of prose - will reign again.
To putting out the fire and climbing down the tree. Cheers, my friends.