Congratulations, You’ve Written A Novel…
So, the novel is done—you’ve finished the book and laid it all on the table. Given it your very best. It’s done!
Your editor has accepted the book. Yippee!
Truth is, finishing the draft means there’s a lot more work to come. Beyond my wonderful editor, Liza Baker, there is a fine team of book designers, copy editors, more copy-editors who engage you in a dance of details, details, details.
Even as the ARC (Advance Reading Copy) is being printed, you’re still being asked questions about consistency and searching for typos. The goal is to make the book as perfect as possible by the time it is published.
My manuscript was accepted in March 2012, and I just finished the last stages of proof-reading after ten drafts. I should be pleased. I am pleased.
But I am also, as always, incredibly scared. Every single time the printed text is set before me, my heart races. Stress courses through me like electricity. I am haunted by past iterations of the text. I dearly miss a character I had to cut, and I wonder if the first sentences are better now that I’ve revised, or if I’ve somehow made them worse.
Your Brain on Revisions
“Okay. Take the comma out.” ”No, put it back.” ”Take it out.” Wait three days. Decide the comma stays. Catch that Sugar always says “nuthin,” so on page 245, she can’t say “nothing.” Cut a repetitive line. Double-check accuracy: is it crocodiles or alligators? (Neither. It’s “gators” in Sugar’s world.)
Reading and re-reading my words, I crawl back into the creative place. Can’t I just relax and have a cup of coffee? No, I can’t. My characters are depending upon me, even as I grow ever more neurotic. All the wonderful folks at Little Brown are depending upon me. Imaginary and real people—both grown-ups and youth—are depending upon me. Just as I depend upon them.
I sometimes think of myself as a castaway on a desert island, writing through sun and storm. My fear comes from the fact that, from the bottom of my heart, I want readers to be as moved by Sugar as I have been.
This young girl on the sugar plantation–she is about to go into the world. Once the manuscript is typeset and bound, it becomes its own creature, and must face the world alone. I hope that by the time I write THE END, the book is good enough to reach the hearts of strangers, even across an ocean of separation.
Closing the Book
Through the chaos, I must remember to be grateful, to say thank you. So, thank you, Sugar, for speaking to me. Thank you, LBYR folks who have helped shape my book down to the finest detail. (Any remaining errors are all mine.) Thank you, future readers, for being in this world. SUGAR won’t be complete until you read it.