Dear Future Publisher,
Writing a book is like building a house – it is done in stages, beginning with the skeleton, and then adding layer after layer to that frame (walls, a roof, cabinets, stairs, and then paint, trim, decorative features), building and rebuilding and finishing and refinishing and decorating and redecorating until the end product is complete and beautiful and right.
When I finished my first WIP, the YA comedic fantasy, it felt substantially finished. When I reached the last page, the last word, it felt done. It did need revisions and rewrites, of course, but the shape of the story, its key components, remained much the same. A little fleshing out here, a little snipping there, some changes to language and grammar and so on. A lot of polish and paint on a structure that remained much the same – maybe an extra beam for added support here or there, a new banister, a different set of cabinets that better suit the style. It was a house that was move-in ready; it needed a little cosmetic work but had a structure that was solid.
But this manuscript doesn’t feel done, not yet. It needs a lot of work. For one thing, it’s about 20,000 words too long. I need to tighten. To cut – maybe whole scenes, certainly whole sentences. Characters may disappear or change to suit the needs of the rewrites and revisions. I don’t think it will feel real, feel complete, until I’ve made at least one pass. I’m not ready for polish yet. I’m still building. I have a bunch of pieces of wood hammered together roughly, in an approximation of the shape of a house, and some of them are in the wrong place, and others need to go completely, and some places need to be bolstered or else they will fall apart. It’s a real fixer-upper, and in some cases I will need to tear down before I can rebuild. Some of it may not be salvageable. Some walls still need to go up. But it has potential, and the house it could be, the house I want to make it, is superimposed on this heap, this jumble, and spurs me on.
But I haven’t yet stood back and looked at it. I’ve only looked right in front of me, at the piece I’m building right now. This will be my first time taking in the scope of it, and seeing it for what it collectively is. What it is as a book.
That’s scary, I guess. Because it doesn’t look like a building yet – it doesn’t look like a book. It looks like a heap of sticks, a heap of pages, a not insubstantial heap of words, and not all of them are good. The whole thing is bending, sinking, threatening to fall or fail under its own weight, and it’s hard to know how to begin – how to tackle a project that still needs so much, that is still so patently unfinished.
It happens – it has to happen – one piece at a time. Replacing each element with something better, tearing out what is unfit and bolstering what needs support and trimming what is excess and restructuring what is ill-placed and generally bettering the whole not by looking at the whole but by looking at each component part. And by then looking at the whole, and seeing how it all works together, too. How it is more than a jumble of parts. How it is a building, how it is a book.
It needs a lot of work before I send it out to you. A lot of work before it even deserves your eye. But I will put in that work, and take this mess that sits before me, and remake it, transform it, into something worthy of your time. Into my dream house – a dream house we can share, and live in together, happily ever after like the storybooks say.