Not that I’m counting, but in seven short weeks my only kid goes to college. During these bittersweet days, he’s been around more than in his past four years. He’s indulging me a bit, but I sense he’s also feeling bittersweet about leaving. He’s asked for man-in-the-moon eggs, shared movies and great meals, played card and board games, even my new obsession, Words with Friends, a crazy iBlank game which must soon be deleted from my phone! Soon this microburst of bonding and joy will be replaced by excitement and angst as we send him across the country, into the vast and sometimes harsh world.
I’m in the midst of another countdown—four weeks (give or take) until I send my first query for The Italian Architect at Highgate. Right now my manuscript is in the hands of my trusted group of beta readers. All of my What Women Write partners have either critiqued it or are doing so now, plus I’ve enlisted a few trusted mega-bookworms who share the same taste in fiction.
Some established writers might balk at the idea of so many people commenting and picking apart their manuscripts, but after writing, rewriting, revising, editing, culling, sprucing, sprinkling, killing, I’ve lost a bit of perspective. Plus, as any proud parent would, I relish the time and attention my baby is getting.
Most writers who have queried manuscripts (as a 3-time almost ran, I feel somewhat qualified) know that opinions vary widely. There will be those who love your idea and words, others who pass them by. It’s no different than browsing a bookstore display of new fiction—sometimes you just know at the first few words that it’s not for you.
If three people love a sentence or paragraph and one does not, look hard at the negative comment. Especially if the phrase in question has bothered you—I have one or two in Highgate—hone and twist it into a fresher sentence, save it for your next go, or send it to the guillotine and briefly mourn. The trick is to study the advice and comments and track-changed manuscript for what feels right.
Ultimately, you are the final judge of what ends up in the version you send off to agents and editors. You are the one who will send your baby off to the harsh world, and know it will be in good hands, that in 18 months (or 4 years) from now, you will reap the benefits, see its name on a shelf or a college diploma.