So, my six weeks of The Break came to an end this week, with the thud of a manuscript on my doorstep, a sudden idea, and a sudden request.
After finishing the first draft of Alex Van Helsing #2, I took some time off just to read-- and I read voraciously: kids books, classics, thrillers, young adult, and on. In the catching up from blowing off High School English arena, I finally read To Kill a Mockingbird, Rebecca, In Cold Blood, and Breakfast At Tiffanys. I read books by Mary Higgins Clark, Patricia Cornwell, Dean Koontz, Kelley Armstrong, LJ Smith, and a few more. It was a great six weeks.
Stephen King would not approve of the not writing. I read a lot of how-to-write books, and his book On Writing is my favorite of these, and King believes pretty fervently that you shouldn't take time off from writing; you should finish one book on Tuesday and start a new one on Wednesday. So I have sinned in the eyes of the King, and I can live with that.
This week it was over, anyway-- first, I started writing a new book, and the words began flowing fast. I worked in a fever and sent the first 24 pages or so to my agent: is this a book? Tell me if this is a book or not. By which I mean, is this a waste of time? Truly, we should be able to tell ourselves this, but I'm not above asking someone else, someone I'm not afraid to share rough work with. I think of this as being like having someone wander into your studio while you're sketching.
And no sooner had I done that than two more things turned up: for one thing, a comic book editor I work with wrote me with a bizarre and sudden request: probably three issues-- it'll be complicated tying this in with x, and you'll need to compare notes with y-- but the story involves a bunch of girl heroes, and I can always dig that.
And then the notes for Alex Van Helsing #2 came.
When I say "notes," what I'm talking about is what you can expect to get back from your publisher after you turn in your first draft. I've heard that editors who do full edits like this are a dying breed, but HarperCollins doesn't mess around. I turned in a draft of AVH2 at the end of January, and six weeks later I get a three-page letter going over the book and a pencil-edited printout.
The letter is detailed-- it starts out with kind words about the book, and every writer loves that, and quickly moves on the things to work on: plot points that seem underdeveloped, motivations that could use more clarity, names that maybe should change. And on.
The greatest feeling I have about this is a sense of thankfulness-- that anyone out there, anywhere, is working to make my work the best it can be.
So now the re-writing begins, and I wrap up the is this a book pitch and see if we can do something with that. Still gotta work on the girl hero thing this weekend. AVH2 edits are due some time next month.Tax day, more or less.
Writing is work, like real work, and it's done one word and one punctuation mark at a time. Even a short book takes a lot of time, and there's very little in the way of thanks out there. (For me, so far, there is more than I can ask for, but there might not be, and there need not be.) But it's work I love, so that's all right.