Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

How It Feels

It occurs to me that in the slightly giddy but overall fairly dry recap of the signing, I didn’t really capture how enormously weird it was to be standing in a real bookstore in front of a bunch of people reading lines I’d written. Yes, of course I’ve had dreams like that, only usually I’m better dressed, the audience is bigger, and the lines are better. Also I can consistently pronounce “either.” But based on my reactions last night, I think that my dreams should start smaller. Even this modest audience of twenty people–most of whom knew me–was slightly intimidating. Sitting there, taking me seriously… interested in my book. (And the people, once again, were great.) I thought I’d be prepared for this, since I’d done a preview reading from the text at a convention last fall, but I was nervous, didn’t set up the chapter as well as I could’ve, and tried, in some misguided Iron Man way, to make it all the way through without taking a single drink of water (I failed–my voice literally gave out–but I did get to the last page before I had to grope back behind me for the water bottle).

The side effect this has is one of swinging the pendulum back to me believing in the book. While I was reading, I was wincing inwardly and thinking I should’ve taken another six months to tighten up the prose, improve the descriptions, rehash the dialogue (at one point I did redact the prose on the fly, taking out one word so it wouldn’t sound repetitive). But seeing so many people interested in it, and talking to a few who’d read and enjoyed it, make me see the positive qualities of the book again, and remember one of my core tenets, which is that people won’t remember that ugly sentence on page 24. They will remember the message of the book if it’s effectively conveyed, and I think that I did that.

That doesn’t change the acute awareness of all the minor glitches in the prose that stand out in sharp relief during a reading. All that does is cement my resolve to edit more firmly this next manuscript, so that next time I stand up to read, I can focus on remembering to say either “ay-ther” or “ee-ther” throughout.


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