Celebrating an Achievement

I finished my complete re-write of Safira's story on Labor Day - very appropriate, don't you think? Derek had promised me "fancy drinks" to celebrate once I was done, but it was late by the time I finished Monday, so we went out last night, on Tuesday.

It is an ordeal to finish a novel - to get through the conception, sorting your ideas, outlining, developing characters, researching setting, writing and re-writing and re-writing some more. In my case, I re-wrote an entire book that I finished over a year ago. I switched the POV from 3rd-person omniscient to 1st-person with three narrators. I'm so happy with the result. With the 3rd-person draft, I felt like a lot was lost in translation between my head and the page, but with 1st-person, the reader is up close and intimate with the narrators, they get to experience the emotions and the chaos, and it's wonderful. And here's another clue that I made the right choice: I cried when I wrote this draft. Not all the time, of course, but during the scenes that I meant to be sad, I actually cried! I still feel terrible for what I did to some of those characters.

The point I'm trying to make is that, since it is such an ordeal to finish a novel, it's important to celebrate. Finishing a novel is an achievement for which I am immensely proud. Especially because I have so much faith in this story. So while my temptation was to type the last word, send it off to my beta readers, and immediately jump into pre-query mode, I resisted. I took the rest of Monday night off. I got into that research mode Tuesday morning, but we still went out and celebrated the book itself Tuesday night. Unfortunately, by that point, my ability to celebrate was somewhat compromised.

THE FEAR had already set in.

What I love about writing is that I have total control. I can put my characters through hell or I can send them on vacation. I can let the villain win or I can cut off his head. But after the book is done, I lose control. I have to send off letters and hope beyond hope that the agents who read said letters like my pitch, that they don't have something like it already on their list, and that they believe it can sell. There seems to be so much luck involved in this phase of the game and that makes me nervous. I have no fear of hard work. But I have great fear of things that I can't attain even with all the work in the world. And querying feels a little like that.

While I was writing, I did a good job of avoiding distractions. I didn't draft query letters or synopses or check in on agents on Twitter or read any of their blogs. Doing that stuff plays tricks on my mind, and I know that my story is the product, so it deserved my full attention while I'm crafting it. Of course, as soon as I was done, I headed for those sources that would have been distractions before but are now my job. And they still play tricks on my mind. I read agents' advice for writing a good story, I read the reasons why they pass on a hundred books, and I wonder if my book will fall into those categories. It will inevitably fall into some, sure, but will it fall into all of them? Is my setting great and the pacing good but my narrators' voices weak? Will the agents be able to connect with my characters? Will the book push the boundaries of the genre and make agents doubtful they can sell it? Will they think the writing is decent but that the story needs more work?

This is the fear I'm talking about. I fear the answers to the above questions, and my only hope now is that my two trusty beta readers will send me back buckets of criticism that will help me make the story stronger. Until then, I will try to gather data on agents without getting bogged down by the fear, and I will try to look at this picture often and remember that no matter what happens with querying, I still have something grand and dandy to celebrate:

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