It’s six days before the release of my first book.
I’m sure the feeling would be surreal … if I didn’t have a million other things going on right this second – kindergarten screening for our almost 5-year-old, pre-k graduation for her, pre-k registration for our 3-year-old, dance recital, trying to sell a house (which comes with its own set of complications), trying to finish getting the garden planted. And this is the short list.
You get the idea.
When I’m not worrying about all of those things and more, I’m hunched over my computer clutching a lukewarm cup of coffee that should have stopped being reheated two times ago wondering what I could have done differently with the book a handful of people have read. I’m worrying if something I wrote in it is going to offend someone. If I’m going to get in trouble because I use the name of a real place and put people in those places and in situations that aren’t favorable. I’m just crazy enough to be worrying about the mental health of one of my characters because I left her kind of in limbo (but that’s a resolution for the second book).
I wonder if other writers give themselves anxiety over the pretend people in their lives. I imagine they do, because there’s something about creating a character that, despite their fictional status, makes them real.
When I was in the early writing stages for “To Have,” there was a disconnect. I was writing but I wasn’t feeling. I was coming up with ideas, and excited about them, but the human aspect was missing. Until I let myself meet my characters and get to know them. Regardless of all the years I’ve been writing, this was a feeling I hadn’t experienced before. Brian and Stella became part of my life and I had the sudden need to introduce them to everyone … but at the same time I didn’t want to share them.
I was afraid other people wouldn’t love them as much as I do. I took a huge chance when I said the book was finished and printed copies of the document for the four women who beta read for me. This book had become so near and dear to me that I was terrified they wouldn’t even like it and rather call me delusional, which, you know, would make sense considering I was having dreams about these characters and thinking about Brian more than I was thinking about my husband at
a thousand different points one point.
Instead, one of my beta readers told me that she found herself talking to her husband about Brian and Stella and the whole gang like they were real people. She was delusional too! Thank the sweet baby Jesus in the manger, I’m not the only one. Even better was that she said this isn’t the genre she would typically read but was pulled into the story. This is the kind of beta reader everyone needs – someone who doesn’t read your genre. She made me feel like, perhaps, and I might be a little crazy saying this, but maybe this book isn’t a cheesy romance novel. Maybe.
I was accused to making another beta reader send her friends back – because I needed the proof copy to make corrections – and I literally laughed out loud knowing she loved these people as much as I do.
A third reader asked me if it was my goal in life to make her cry. You betcha it is. I write with emotion whether it’s for my personal blog, a news story, or for entertainment.
And then there’s the last reader, who actually was the first person to read any of “To Have.” She was reading it when it was ideas written in loosely formed chapters and Brian’s coffeehouse didn’t have a name. She was helping me visualize parts I was having trouble with and playing Devil’s Advocate when my characters wouldn’t talk to me. I suggest anyone trying to write a book or a short story or a haiku to find one of these friends to buddy write with. And hold onto them like they are a lifeline because they are more precious than the last bottle of wine on your wine rack.
Those wonderful women gave me the ability to move on to the next stage, make corrections, rework some things, and actually consider the fact I could publish this bad boy. And it’s happening. And now that I’ve taken the time to sit and think about what all that means while also pulling a small child out of the refrigerator three times and off the counter once and threatened with Time Out and almost cried because “please just be quiet and stop being naughty so I can finish this!” … it’s surreal.
I have a book releasing in six days.