A while back, one of my teachers at Stanford suggested that we print out a paper copy of our novels to get a feel for where we stood in our writing process.
I never did this-probably because I wasn’t finished with the novel at the time, or I was too busy on class assignments, taking care of the dogs, the family, or just basically too immersed in the machinations of the life I live. Who knows?
Anyway, fast forward (about a year and a half) to last week and while I was reading an article about writing/publishing in a magazine, a big, and I mean BIG deal editor at a BIG deal publishing house, made the same suggestion and I thought, “Hey…my teacher told us to do that! Maybe I should sacrifice 400 trees and give it a shot?”
(Back-story: I have a significant issue with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to my writing (and other things) and even though I’ve written many well received short stories, essays, poems and the beginnings of a couple of other novels, I really never thought I’d gotten very far with the main novel I’ve been working on, even though I had to present a completed version for review in my last class-which I did. Still, I’ve beaten myself up over this for a long time. Probably because I work in sections-out of order, doing a lot of revising as I go, and when I did submit the final draft, I’d never read it from page one to the end straight through, and we only worked on segments and it’s felt for a long time that I haven’t gotten very far with it.)
So, on Saturday, I mentioned what the editor said in the article to my hubby and he said I should go for it.
Our printer (not made for large, industrial jobs), is in the playroom/aka sports viewing room where hubby was settled in for a day of non-stop football watching. Because our child was outside running around with his buddies looking for gold and digging up rocks, hubby offered to man the printer, so I could do some writing on another story, uninterrupted, during the printing.
I was grateful.
I hate printers. Hate changing the ink cartridges and hate having to fill the paper tray. Really. I hate it all. I just want what I want to print and I don’t care how any of it works. Hubby gave me the go, I opened up the document, hit print, thanked him again and went on with my work, writing and re-writing two paragraphs over and over and over again, for what seemed like ages, the print job out of my mind.
Hubby started sending texts telling me to go back and re-print certain pages, then sections, etc., which I did, not understanding what the problem was, and to tell you the truth…not really caring. This happened a couple of times and I figured the whole printing thing had gotten botched up, as they often do (for me, anyhow) and tried to ignore it all, even though the texts kept coming.
I was so immersed in what I was writing that I lost track of time (fellow writers-you are familiar with this state, I’m sure) and was surprised a few hours later when he brought the completed job downstairs and plopped it on the kitchen island next to my cold cup of coffee.
Stunned by the size of the pile sitting before me, I asked if I’d mistakenly told the printer to make multiple copies, or had numerous pages and/or chapters been copied twice, and…worst of all…was it all out of order?
“Honey,” he said, “This is your novel. No extra pages, no double copies. This is it, and the printer went through two ink cartridges and three packs of paper to get it all printed. And, I made sure the pages were all in order.”
I stared at the gigantic stack in disbelief. I seriously could not believe that an entire manuscript (that I’d written) was sitting there in all it’s glory, mocking the idiotic notion I’d been holding onto for the last year, that I hadn’t gotten much done on the thing…and, that I was a slacker.
It was hard not to cry when it took both hands and help from my hubby, to pick up all 598 pages of double-spaced lines of 12 point size Times Roman font that I’d written and formed into a real novel.
Because, there it was. Proof, in paper, of all the work I’d done. Proof, that even though it’s a very revised combination of a first and second draft…it really is an entire novel, with a beginning, middle and end. No longer an endless stream of words on a computer screen staring back at me, but a beast of a thing that I created.
And as I looked at it I actually felt proud of myself (a rare state of being for me) and still do, every time I walk by the dining room table where it’s now sitting all by itself…a tangible reminder of what I can do-whether I give myself credit for it or not.
I don’t know where you are in your writing process, but if you haven’t given this exercise a try…maybe you should.
I’m glad I finally did.
Check out Robin’s short stories at this link.
And see More from “The Restless Raconteur”