Juggling act

I’ve now officially passed three self-imposed deadlines for the current draft of The Swan Harp. In one way I”m not particularly happy about that, because I hate to feel like I’m behind in my work. In another, I realize that while one reason I’m behind is lack of time (dratted full-time-job to pay the bills!), the other is that the story is growing as I discover new facets of my characters and new features of my world.

I’d really hoped to have this draft done after the writing binge at the end of July, or possibly within a week of that. It hasn’t happened, and although I’m working hard on it on my daily commute, I’m beginning to think that I won’t have it done until the Labour Day weekend binge. That’ going to mean a very fast turnaround for my readers and a really fast rewrite, and I’m wondering if I can do it.

I have two choices – one, to keep to the current deadline and do that rewrite in a helluva hurry, or two, throw out the idea of a read-through and rewrite and just keep working on the current draft and send that in, trusting that I haven’t made any huge errors or left big holes.

I’m not happy about “two”. I prefer to have a fresh set of eyes on my work before I submit it for any kind of contest or publication. It may be I’ll have to go for a third option: getting a read-through and response and doing rewrites on things that seriously need fixing only. Okay, I’m not happy with that, either.

The question is, am I being unreasonable to expect the work to be ready for the October 1st deadline I have, which is the day I promised the agent it would be in her in-box? The answer is, I think, that I have to stop rewriting sometime, and show it to her. The whole “No work of art is ever completed..” thing definitely applies here. When she asked me to do a rewrite and make the novel “as good as it could be”, she followed up by saying, “and then we’ll go really deeply into it”. This tells me that she isn’t expecting perfection, just vast improvement. That I can deliver, and I think that’s what I need to remember.

I’m less concerned than I might be because my early draft got her interest, and I can now see huge flaws in it. I can take criticism, and I can work with it and improve the story.

It’s a juggling act – time and deadline versus perfection. We need to remember that perfection is almost never possible. The Russian Judge Factor always figures in: someone will be a severe critic, for whom less-than-perfection is automatically a Bad Performance. (Full disclosure here: I am my own Russian Judge.) But given a choice between finishing an excellent work and never finishing a perfect one, I know what I want to do.

That manuscript will be delivered October 1st, on the dot. It’s one deadline I’m not going to miss.

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4 Responses to Juggling act

  1. That is a very smart way to look at it. There is a point when one must stop editing and send it off. Editors will help make your perfect work excellent. 🙂

  2. You said the really important words: “I have to stop rewriting sometime, and show it to her.” Together you will get it to the state it needs to be in to publish. And how great that there is so much to say about the world and your characters – you *won’t* be stuck after just one book. Thanks for sharing your thinking aloud, it is really helpful.

  3. ecreith says:

    Oh, I’m so glad it’s helpful – I sometimes feel it’s pure self-indulgence. Thank you both!

  4. lucinda kempe says:

    INTERVIEWER

    Do you revise already-published work?

    ERDRICH

    At every opportunity. Usually, I add chapters that I have written too late to include in the original. Or I try to improve the Ojibwe language used in the book. As I learn more or I consult my teachers, I learn how much I don’t know. Ojibwe is something I’ll be a lifelong failure at—it is my windmill. I’ve changed Love Medicine quite a lot, and I wanted to revise The Blue Jay’s Dance. For one thing I wanted to take out the recipes. Don’t try the lemon-meringue pie, it doesn’t work. I’ve received letters. I can’t wait to change Four Souls. There are some big mistakes in that.

    From The Paris Review, The Art of Fiction, Louise Erdrich.

    Just so you don’t feel bad, E. Yes, it does sound like its time, but don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re a lover of the art/craft.

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