It’s not the final product, of course. This is what’s called a proof: a printed copy of the book as it should look. One last time (at least) to go over it and get corrections done before the final version comes out and you’re committed. Sink or swim with what’s there.
The polishing is long done. The story’s been edited several times by now, and seen by more than my eyes alone.
Time to fish or cut bait, as they say (as opposed to another, more vulgar way of putting it).
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. I’ve had a couple short stories published, and though it was cool to see my words in a book, that book was an anthology, and the space was shared with several other authors. So it wasn’t my book.
But based on that experience, I figured by this point I’d be numb to it. After all the times I’ve had to go through this story, it only makes sense that seeing it in a book form isn’t much different from seeing it on my monitor or printed out a few pages at a time to share in group.
The first day I got it, I couldn’t stop thumbing through it. And I still find myself picking it up occasionally not to proofread it but just look through it, take in the sight of my words—and my words alone—in a printed book. A book, mind you, with my name on the cover along with my title (that makes me feel a little like Gollum talking about “My Precious”).
But for the most part that’s been largely replaced with a surreal feeling. I mean, I’m going through this thing, looking to weed out any final mistakes and…it’s strange. On the one hand, I know these words well. Their mine. I wrote them, and remember what it was like on pretty much any given page when I did it.
And yet, it’s a little like I’m reading someone else’s work, too. Which is good, mind you. It gives me some much-needed detachment. And that detachment has had a curious effect. I’m finding—and I say this with all modesty and quite a bit of surprise—that I’m a good writer. Yeah, I get folks tell me that a lot, and with all due respect to them, I usually kinda shrug it off (mentally, anyway) as me having really pulled the wool over their eyes. Or maybe it’s just a fluke that they think that.
I know this conceit won’t last long, and it shouldn’t. We writers live in this curious twilight where, on the one hand, we feel our writing always needs to be better to measure up to those who have influenced us, while on the other hand we have the audacity to flaunt this lackluster-to-us-scribbling to anybody who’ll agree to read and/or listen to it.
If I’m a good writer, it’s because I’ve had good influences and the good sense to learn from them. I’ve also had a lot of good people around me to tell me how to improve my writing. And just as many more who simply encouraged me to keep trying.
I have to say the best moment, for me, was when I sent a picture of the book to my love, Carolann, and she wrote back that she was proud of me. I walked on clouds the rest of the day. And I’m still up there a bit.
It’s taken me a long time to get here, and for most of that time, I never thought I would make it. But I have. I’m 48 years old as I write this, soon to be 49. Maybe if I’d applied myself I would have reached this point years ago. Or, maybe I’ve needed to reach this point in my skill and it took the right people around me to get me here.
If you’re in the shoes I was in (and I’m not meaning this to sound like some elder statesman giving advice to the wide-eyed understudy), don’t give up. If you’re as good as you hope you are, or as you want to be, someone will say, “Hey, let me publish your book.”
And when they do, you can blog about how surreal it is to read your own work in a printed book for the first time.
Enjoy the hell out of it.