I’ve been in New York City now for almost two weeks. The first ten days were spent in a mild – or not so mild – state of panic getting my manuscript ready for the editor. I have to pace myself: I learned the hard way that post-concussive syndrome will ruin my plans if I push too hard. I have to rest my brain. If I don’t, I lose the focus I need for my work.
I varied the places where I worked: my favorite tea parlor, three different branches of the NY Public Library, the place where I’m staying. That variety gave me a little boost in energy.
By the time I hit ‘send’ last Friday, I knew I was pushing myself right up to that limit. In fact, a distraction when I was an hour away from finishing nearly derailed me. That hour’s worth of work took me three hours. I wasn’t happy, believe me. But it got done.
With that completed, I could now spend some time relaxing and recharging. I walked as much as the heat and humidity allowed, riding on air-conditioned buses when necessary (no way was I going down in the subway steam bath). I settled in to my friend’s apartment, which I’m watching while he’s out of the country. I cooked. I even participated in an ACT UP action at the Whitney Museum, my first-ever demonstration in a museum.
Imagine my surprise when my editor started sending me feedback just 48 hours later. I thought I’d have a longer reprieve before Writer’s Digest Conference starts on Friday. No rest for the wicked, right?
The good news is that I don’t have a lot to do to get ready for WDC. I choose my conferences based on my goals and I know what I need to learn. So I powered through the first chapter he sent me.
I’m using a different editor for this book, someone who’s close to the subject matter. I rely on him to make sure the book is honest and accurate and as good as it can possibly be. I’m writing about something I know a lot about, but I have to keep in mind that not everyone knows what I know. That’s one of the things he’s addressing: the need for me to fully explain background. Still, all those red and green marks on the pages gave me pause.
Oh, my God, is it really that bad?
Of course not. It just needs work. A lot of work. That’s why we have editors, to make a good book better. Writing the book is hard. This stage, the editing, is where it gets real. I know a number of indie authors who do not believe they need to spend the money on an editor. They are, I can say quite confidently, wrong.
Editing requires not just an attention to detail, but an objectivity that no one has about their own books. As good as I think some parts of my book are, I also know that I’m too close to it to know for sure. I believe in my work. But I also believe I have to be willing to make it better.
Tomorrow the conference begins, and my attention will be on learning and networking. I’ll meet up with friends and hopefully make new ones, too. By Sunday afternoon, my brain will once again be mushy. I will have a long list of leads and people to follow up with while I’m waiting for that colorfully marked up manuscript to be returned.
It’s a luxury, being able to spend weeks focusing on my writing, so I’m not wasting it. That doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy the city, wandering around the Cloisters or seeing Twelfth Night at the Delacorte. Those are things that restore my energy and creativity. We all need them.
And maybe, just maybe, the heat wave will break…