Step away from the manuscript!
In the last month, getting Everything We Keep ready for printing, I had the opportunity to read through the last proof, not once but twice.
The first read was to look for anything - typos, structure, and consistency. The manuscript doc that had gone back and forth was now set out in book layout, the cover, the details, and the font. It was a thrill to see it in this form - another step closer to the book becoming real.
I know what was being asked of me - and I did just that. I read it aloud and as I went, tried to find anything that needed to change - all the little things that I had glossed over when reading it in my head. (There was, on more than one occasion, a self-chastise - how did I miss that? That's the editing process!)
What I wanted to do, which I know was too late for, were big changes. That time had passed but it got me thinking about the process and when, as the writer, do I every stop rereading my work and thinking - I could make this better!
Last year during the 2020 lockdown, I read a lot. I would sit in my garden in the winter sun and watch the world go past (it was lockdown, so it wasn't that busy). I read through all of the books I had on my TBR pile, and then decided to reread Unpacking Harper Holt - after all I hadn't read it since it had been published in 2018.
I didn't get far before I started rewriting parts in my head - not major changes, just sentences that I would now change. I noticed things about my writing that I hadn't noticed before.
In the past few weeks, the same thing happened with Everything We Keep. As I was reading it I thought things like - 'What if I replaced this word with this sentence?' and 'How about adding another paragraph here?'
There has to be a point when I say - it's done. Step away from the manuscript. That point has been reached with Everything We Keep - it is in its final form and I am really, really pleased with how it has evolved. But these characters, Harper and Agatha, they were so present in my mind, for so long, it's hard to recognise that I have done the best I can with it and it is time to just let it be.
So here is where I am at. If I need to read Harper again it is going to be a speed read, so quick that I don't have time to linger on parts that could have been. Once Agatha is out and
in bookstores I won't need to read it for a long time - because I've just done that! However, like Harper, in a year or two, if I have to reread it - speed and don't linger.
I have started reworking a manuscript I wrote over a year ago. I am taking all I have learnt, all the things I have noticed in rereading Harper and the final proof of Agatha and channelling that into this manuscript.
I'm going to be picky, pedantic, precise and aim to get it to the point that when I reread it I'm not also rewriting in my head.
Well... that is until someone tells me to step away from the manuscript.