Novellablog: Letting Go, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Fear of Bombing

That title’s a big fat lie.

I let go of none of my fears (ever), and I’m terrified of bombing. I worry about what people think all the time. There is no learning to stop. It’s just part of who I am.¬†On the other hand, there is a time to let go, if only because if you don’t, the larger project fails. That’s right about where I am now with The Kairos Mechanism.

Last night I finished all but a couple of the final edits from my friend, author and ace editor Christine Johnson. In the grand plan and timeline for Kairos, Christine is the last person to weigh in before the manuscript goes to Adjua Greaves, my copyeditor for this project. And I have a couple hours left this afternoon before I can call Christine’s edits done, but after that, I sort of have no excuse not to send the manuscript on to Adjua.

Now, careful readers will note that there is still a whole other person left to edit the thing, and therefore plenty of time for me to make changes before the text becomes permanent. So why the panic?

I guess because I’m still sort of kicking around the idea of printing some advance copies to take with me to BEA. I still don’t know what I’d do with them–I’m not booked on any panels or anything, and I’m certainly not planning on wearing a sandwich board that says ASK ME ABOUT MY BOOK. But there is a certain temptation in the idea of having a few on hand, which means I need to be reasonably certain the novella is in passably-readable advance copy state.

I just still don’t know if I am qualified to determine what that looks like. For instance, just to show you the kind of thing I’m (irrationally?) worried about: Word likes to configure ellipses without spaces between the dots. My editor at Clarion always re-configures them the other way, space-dot-space-dot-space-dot-space. But when I do that in Word, I end up with situations where there are two dots at the end of one line and one dot at the beginning of the next one. Do it the other way, and it causes problems when I justify the lines. So clearly I have to go through the entire PDF and fix this issue. File under: dumb-but-obvious-in-retrospect layout stuff to panic about.

Then there’s story stuff. I have a note in the manuscript that I’ve been vacillating about for like 3 weeks. Ongoing story issue? Critical thing I haven’t figured out yet? Nope. There’s a reference to Arcane’s schoolyard, and one of my critique mates wants to know where it is in the town. Literally, all I have to do is pull out my map of Arcane and decide on a spot. There are no ramifications to where I place the schoolyard. None. It’s also kind of unnecessary to actually place it; the story works fine without that detail, so I could reasonably just delete that note. But I need to know where it is for purposes of planning (see my earlier post on organization), and adding that one line won’t slow things down at all. So I should do it. It’s not a difficult thing. It’s easy and logically a good thing to do. And yet…I keep putting this stupid detail off, for no reason I can figure out except a reluctance to let go. File under: dumb-but-nagging detail stuff to panic about.

I could give you more examples, things to file under the following categories:

  • historical accuracy stuff to panic about
  • awkwardness-of-shorter-length-manuscript stuff to panic about
  • while-panicking-about the book-am-I-doing-enough-blogging-and-outreach stuff to panic about

And really, I invented all these categories to avoid thinking about the big elephant in the room with me right now: panic that people simply won’t like the story. If people don’t like the story, it’s not going to be because of anything left on any of my panic lists. If people don’t like the story, I have no one to blame but myself. There’s no editor and no acquisitions committee that gave me a measure of validation in advance. It’s only me who thought this was something worth writing, worth my time to complete, worth your time to read. Only me who thought it was ready.

Well, only me, my critique group, the Kid Editors, two in-depth story-editors…every one of them a person I trust. And really, if I’m honest, when I read what I’ve written, I truly, truly love it. If I twist my own arm and make myself answer honestly, however hard it is to let go, I do think it’s ready. So maybe I need to stop worrying after all.

I mean, I won’t–I’m still me, after all–but I’m going to try.


One Comment

  1. Holy cow, I am completely relating to this, Kate. Without the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing process, you have to have a deeper kind of faith and thoroughness to make sure you’re putting your best out there. I am very thankful to have my designer and editor around to tell me my book is worth publishing. I mean, I believe it is, but I like to triangulate that opinion! And now that I’ve put the sample chapters out there, I’m getting tons of reassurance that it’s good. I bet you will too!

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