Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Art of Letting Go

Portrait of a Girl
 courtesy of  Wikimedia

You spend months, maybe years, in your writer’s garret, adding to the manuscript on your lap top sentence by sentence, building the novel scene by scene. You refine, you swap words—rose is a better choice than flower, the rusted gate complained, not creaked. You finish a draft and, again, you sift through the words, turning them over, giving your story the wings to fly, or at the least a big pair of feet to stomp around. You give the draft to a few beta readers and ask them what they think. They make suggestions and you take these in and refine again.

Until, at last, you've taken the story as far as you can. You can’t bear to look at it anymore, you've read the opening few paragraphs so often you can recite them by heart and may well be mumbling them in your sleep. You take a deep breath. You submit it to your agent or your editor. You take another deep breath.

If you’re lucky and they like it, you take a moment and waltz around the garret while shouting “yes!” to no one in particular. And then the real work begins
You've gone from solo flight to joint venture now. The editor offers a new perspective and another pair of eyes on the story. She asks you to explain what you meant. She doesn't let you get away with lazy summaries and makes you write new scenes. You find out you have problems you didn't even know about—you are far too fond of the word ‘that’, you head-hopped in chapter three, you can’t spell the word countenance to save your life.

You push and pull at the manuscript and, together, you make it into a good story, maybe even a great story. If you had any doubt that it had wings, now you’re sure that it does. Or that, at least, it has a big honking pair of feet.

Then the most terrifying thing happens. The book gets published. It’s released into the world.  You get reviews and you can’t help but read them. Each complementary sentence makes you feel like you can walk on air and each criticism cuts like a sharp knife.   You hope you’ll find some readers, but you don’t know that you will. There are an awful lot of books out there, a whole sea of books and who knows which ones will float to the top?

            If it feels like you've lost control, it’s because you have. It’s out of your hands and, beyond the occasional blog post, beyond telling whomever you can about your book, there is very little you can do.

            You need to let go. Letting go is scary. It’s the hardest part of the writing journey. There is only one cure and you know what it is, you go back to the garret. There, in the misty recesses of your imagination, another book has begun to take shape, a wonderful book, the best book ever. You begin again, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, to write it. Because this is where the joy lives, in the creation, in the crucible of your imagination, in the promise of a new story taking shape and growing wings.

'Til next time


Olga Godim said...

Great post, Ute. So true.

Big Mike said...

You really got to love writing to go through the process that so few see from the other side.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

You've felt my pain!

Ute Carbone said...

So glad I have you guys to share the madness with. :)