Who moved my cheese?
The copy-edited manuscript for the new book arrived yesterday. This is my one last chance to fix things like spelling, errors and crappy writing. The next time I see my book it will be in galley form and you can only change the little stuff without incurring the wrath of your publisher.
I don't know why I always dread this part of the process so much. Actually, I DO know. I dread opening that big fat FedEx package because I am always afraid that when I pull out those 400 pages, this giant reeking smell will waft out. The odor of rotting wordage, decomposing exposition, dead dialogue. It's the smell of failure, the failure that comes of making what was so alive in your head emerge stillborn on the page.
Sometimes, when I find myself teaching writing or sitting on a convention panel, a beginning writer will ask how to tell when something you write is good or not. I tell them to give their work the cheese test. Finish your chapter then put it away, let it bake in the C drive for a week or as long as you can stand it. Then go back and read it. If it smells like cheese -- and you will know when it smell it -- well, it IS cheese and should be thrown away as mercilessly as moldy brie. If you're lucky, you throw out a paragraph or a chapter. But sometimes you gotta throw it all out and start fresh.
So yesterday, as fearful of cheese as ever, I did my usual ritual. I stuffed the FedEx package in my big tote and trucked over to my favorite watering hole, The Downtowner Saloon. I sat at the end of the bar alone, ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio and a dozen fresh oysters. I opened the package, took out the manuscript and started to read it.
And you know what? It didn't stink. Sure, there were things I changed and corrected. But overall, it was pretty good stuff, if I do say so myself. A tight plot, good characters, even a few passages that made me remember why I got into this racket in the first place.
Damn, I can write. I am a writer. Life is good.