So, I just finished going over the galleys for my new book, Dragons for Beginners (trust me, I’ll be promoting it shamelessly as the launch date nears, but not today). Such a curious labor of love, galleys—seeing how one’s words have been edited, and amended, making sure no meaning was lost or altered in the process. It is an eye-blurring, thought-numbing, generally exhilarating experience.
I hadn’t looked at the book in six months and now, here it was in my hands, all edited, laid out, and one step away from the printer. I was reading it with a fresh mind—or at least a selectively forgetful one. And it was damn good, if I do say so myself. There were even times when I lost myself in the work and forgot that I knew the author, intimately.
I e-mailed my galley notes to my editor, only to have the afterglow of work well-done fade with Cyberian celerity. Like a Lammastide tempest, doubts and second guesses started raining down followed by an army of blue devils in slickers and Wellies prowling round the edges of my mind. ‘Was the book interesting and fun?’ they goaded. Did I cover all my intended bases with sufficient purpose and scholarship, not to mention wit and rhetorical flair? And what about the eccentric punctuation on page vii or the split infinitive on page 57—surely someone was going to notice and discover what a fraud I am. Especially my publisher. In short, was it good enough?
This is the sort of thing that plagues dreams and eats into current and future work. I’ve been working and re-working paragraphs and sentences and phrases to a veritable standstill. But as the days pass, I beat slowly back against this tide of literary inertia (I think I’ve even seen a devil or two shedding their rain gear). While the words haven’t exactly been streaming onto my computer by the hundreds, I have taken a fresh look at a couple of projects, discovered the flaws which were stalling their progress, even hit upon a solution or two—like rewriting the opening pages of my Chinchilla novel and redesigning my world of Asru Nai along more complex—possibly even quasi-steampunk—lines.
Will these be the ultimate answers? Probably not, but they have shaken up the little grey cells and served as a sharp quill under this writer’s backside.
As for my insecurities about DfB, well, they’ll probably linger a tad longer. The perfectionist in me always thinks my work could be better, even if I’m not sure how to make it so. But objectively speaking, I know it’s a good book, eccentric punctuation and all. Hard as it may be, we must eventually let our children go forth into the world, to make it—or not—on their own. And while I can’t say I am ever grateful for blue-devil visitations, I do welcome the clarity of mind that comes when, after a long existential battle, they yield and depart.