How Not to Make Yourself Crazy
September 28, 2019
BY Ellen Hoil
Let me start by saying I failed at this miserably. Given that, I hope to impart some hope to future writers, or writers just starting out and hoping to get their book published. So here is at least one pearl of wisdom I’ve learned the hard way.
In the back of your mind, no matter how deep you bury it, is the notion that every word of the manuscript you sweated over is your child. You can try and convince yourself otherwise, but you will ultimately fail, because reality will hit you in the head like a two-by-four.
Don’t give up hope. Far from it, this is fixable, if you listen to those who have come before you. I only learned this lesson recently, so don’t take anything I say as gospel. Rather take it as a war story from someone recently back from the front lines.
The story is this; a week, or maybe several weeks before you go to publish you’ll get the final version of your manuscript. It will be bright and shiny, and sparkle in the sunlight as if it was a new cut diamond. Your assigned task is simple enough. Read through the pages looking for any mistakes, such as typos, or dropped periods, commas, or words, missed. Is there any minor issue that could have gotten by the numerous beta reader, proof readers, publishers, editors, or friends who have read it so far? By now, numerous pairs of eyes have scoured through it, so the task at hand is a basic one, right. Wrong.
You need to realize fast, this is the part of the process which will draw on every ounce of discipline and restraint you’ve got. When it arrives and you start reading, your first instinct will be “Oh my God. The book is terrible. What the hell possessed me to think I could publish this? I have to fix this! These words can’t possibly be what I meant to write.” Now, take a deep breath or two. Sit down and have a tall glass of beer or wine, or anything else you have handy, and relax. This will be fine.
I had this very same reaction and given the exact advice. Then when I calmed down, I asked my other writer friends how they managed to get through it. Their response, “I don’t.”
“What?!” I said with disbelief.
“Yeah, that’s my wife’s job,” or “I have a friend who does that for me.”
Turns out, sometimes we are our own worst enemies. If you’re finding it impossible to do yourself, because you’re on page two and already rewrote at least one paragraph, then turn it over to an impartial third party. Find someone you trust, an avid reader, a grammar nazi, wife, friend who happens to have a Ph.D. in English Lit. Any of those will do. But make sure they know the task at hand and can be trusted to carry it out.
When it’s over, you can sit down together and go over it. See where things were missed, overlooked or were just wrong. Then submit it back to your publisher, or if you self-publish to yourself. The job is done, no one got hurt, your friends and family are still talking to you, and most of all you kept your sanity.