I have a very bad habit.
I use my Blackberry as a bedside alarm clock.When it goes off, I pick it up, turn it off.
And then I check my email.
Not cool, I know. When you wake up in the morning, you should be giving thanks for another day and plotting how you will take over the world–not checking to see if anyone has emailed you since the night before.
So, Sunday morning, my Blackberry buzzes. I roll over and pick it up. I can hear Tog in her room singing “Where Is Thumbkin” very softly.
Just one new message.
From Sulay Hernandez, the editor at Touchstone/Fireside who bought my first novel: No Tea For The Fever.
I finished re-reading your novel this week and I fell in love with your writing all over again. Fantastic. You have a fantastic style, the characters feel real, and overall you have one hell of a storyline. I’m not here to make your book different, just work with you to make it the best book it can be.
Below are your editorial notes. The novel is in really fantastic shape so I mostly read with an eye towards rounding out the overall ‘narrative arc’.
Without further ado:
By the way, you have one of the strongest opening chapters I’ve ever read. Instantly draws you in!
I re-read Sulay’s words over and over until my vision went blurry. She fell in love with my novel all over again? I have one hell of a storyline? She really believes in this book? Good gravy.
I rolled over and shook TH, waving my Blackberry in his face.
“My edits, my edits! Sulay just sent my edits. And she still likes my book!”
TH opened one eye and glared at me.
“Are you awake yet?” I asked, holding my Blackberry one inch away from his face.
“No.” he said.
I fell back on my side of the bed, clutching my Blackberry tight, as if the email might vanish if I dropped the phone.
I’ve been waiting for Sulay’s edits for some time now. And honestly, I’ve been a mess. I’ve been itching to get to work on delivering a tight, final manuscript.
For one thing, it’s my job. And the acceptance of my final manuscript means the delivery of another check.
But more importantly, this is a huge step in my journey to novelist. And I was eager to hear what Sulay would have to say about how to tighten my book.
I read through all of Sulay’s notes, nodding my head and silently agreeing with everything she said about plot points, dialogue, character development and pacing.
The edits are manageable. I can definitely see what needs to be done and how it will make the book stronger. I can’t wait to dive in.
Later that day, TH and Tog and I went to visit relatives. On the New Jersey Turnpike, I took my Blackberry out of my bag and shook it in TH’s direction.
“Yes, Aliya. Tell me what she said.”
I read Sulay’s email. Ending at the line: By the way, you have one of the strongest opening chapters I’ve ever read. Instantly draws you in!
TH raised an eyebrow.
“Strongest opening chapters, huh?”
“That’s what she said. You wanna hear it?”
“Yeah,” TH said. “I do.”
I pulled out my laptop and opened up the latest version of the novel and began to read.
Before I could get two paragraphs completed, I had to stop.
Maybe I’m too close to it. Or maybe I’m just nervous.
But suddenly, I hated the book. Strong opening chapter? I felt like it was slow and plodding. I couldn’t read another word. My stomach sunk. Novel. Ugh. Edit. Ugh.
I hope this is normal.
Once I sit down to work on the edits, I’m thinking I’ll feel differently.
At least, I hope so.
Dear readers: How do you separate yourself from something you’re working on so you can properly critique it? How on earth am I supposed to live up to Sulay’s praise? I feel like there’s no way I can produce the book she thinks this can be. And why am I so freaking scared?
I’d love to hear from you.