On April 9, 2012 I was at a continuing education seminar (Y-A-W-N) for lawyers, doodling on my notepad. I could picture a scene: a young lawyer is trying to survive the recession at her BigLaw firm when a file comes across her desk– she would be representing someone from her past. I could imagine it all– her panic about billable hours, the general suckiness of sitting around with a bunch of dickheads waiting to be laid off, and this interruption from her past.
That scene I saw in my head turned into the first chapter I wrote in my book (working title, Transference, a reference to the psychological phenomenon whereby patients fall in love with their therapists– NOT that I am writing from experience). Word by word I inched along over the summer and fall and found myself developing the idea for a full-length novel. I did all the things you are supposed to do when you want to be a novelist: I joined a writing group, I tried to be a better speller, I joined websites for writers, and I became obsessed with Stephen King’s On Writing.
I submitted that first chapter to my writing group. The universal feedback was that there “too much exposition” and not enough action. They were nice enough to avoid throwing “show don’t tell” at me. I didn’t necessarily know how to fix it, but I understood what they were saying. Later, one of my closest friends disclosed her opinion after reading that first chapter: “I thought your book was ‘meh.'”
AWESOME stuff, people.
I kept writing.
Each month I showed up for my writing group (and leaving almost suicidal for how exposed I felt in my writing and in my desire to do it well). I added characters– a boyfriend in the second half, an alcoholic-but-decent-hearted mother in the first. It started to feel like a real bookish thing. Around New Year’s I decided it should be written in first person, even though I had 80,000 words in the third person. But it felt too cold. I needed “I” statements for heat.
In March I turned over the full manuscript– all 80,1010 words– to my writing group. I await the feedback from those beloved BETA readers. In my weaker moments I want to send them iPads or Kindles so they will love the book more, but I let those urges pass because EXPENSIVE.
Did I mention we are meeting this morning?
You know how I am honestly looking at this? I think of my book like a fetus. The group will help me see if there is a heartbeat. Meaning, this is one of those early appointments. We aren’t doing gender or kidneys or fingers & toes. It’s simply whether there is a viable fetus.
Sometimes I picture the “Acknowledgements” page when I am drifting off to sleep. “Thank you to Jeff and Sadie and Simon….To Jeffrey….To Joyce and Sara….To Carinn….to my parents…To Dolly Parton and Adele and Sigmund Freud…” (If I have insomnia, I name almost everyone who ever existed.)
No doubt there are miles ahead for me and this book, but I am pausing here at this milestone–the one-year marker– and giving a big kiss of gratitude up to the Heavens for how far I have already come.