Saturday, June 16, 2012

So your book has a cover ... now what?

I am both the most and least patient of people.

The patient part was the part that wrote my novel. Every night after dinner was done and my family had gone to sleep, I’d sit down at the old laptop and figure out where the characters were taking me, then I’d get lost in words for the next three or four hours. Sometimes I’d write clear through the night until it was time to get my daughter’s lunch packed for school and myself ready for another day of work. Weekends were occasionally writing marathons, with breaks built in for the stuff of living. I didn’t rush — the characters’ lives unfolded at their own pace — and it took me a long time to get to the point where I understood it was time to let them find closure.

I’ve since learned that many writers produce not one but several novels in the time it had taken me to get to this winding down stage.

I think because I’ve worked at newspapers most of my life, this leisured pace — so far removed from hard deadlines and words turned in a few hours to article or editorial — made patience easy.

But it’s also what’s made what has come after the novel was finished so blasted trying.

With newspapers, your articles and editorials are poured onto the page instants after the edit is done, you see how the finished product will look minutes before you load it onto the printer’s ftp site, and the next morning, there it is, hot off the presses. No delayed gratification — just words in column widths on newsprint and someone telling you how much they loved or hated your editorial, thank you very much.

From waiting for my beta-readers to finish reading the manuscript to edits to galleys, this first-novel-in-the-making has been a test of patience. And now, I have a cover. And an ISBN number.

It feels like the novel is almost ready to see the light of day, but of course it isn’t. It doesn’t launch until Oct. 15 and between now and then there are who knows how many steps until I actually arrive at that  “hot off the presses” experience.

I think the level and consistency of my impatience amuses my editor/publisher — at least I hope it amuses more than irritates him. As self-protection against the bite of my impatience, I design book cards, make lists of the people I’ll send reading copies to, plan publicity pieces newspaper editors like me glance at to decide whether we’ll pass the book on to a reviewer or simply add it to the stack of books we’ll never find the time to get to.

And so I wonder how writers with multiple books to their name do it. I’m asking you, like a younger sibling hoping the older will have wisdom to share: How do you live in this in-between time?

In the interim, of course, I’m writing. Weekly columns and editorials, poems and short stories and novellas, but it’s not quite the same thing as a novel. No patience required, you see.

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