My Least Favorite Thing

I finally finished the final proof pages to send back to Kensington for The Body in the Beauty Parlor. That’s the last time I get to touch my writing before it’s published. And by then, you’d think it would be perfect, but it never is, even though my critique partners have already red-inked it, and I’ve fixed those problems. And it’s already gone through content editing by my wonderful editor, John Scognamiglio, and I fixed those. And it’s gone through copy edits that I have to approve or disapprove or comment on–always more than it seems there should be. Then, last, but not least, I have to go through the final proof before the book’s ready to publish. By then, you’d think it would be as good as it’s going to get, right? Wrong.

There’s something about this last, “this is it” edit that makes me more critical of my writing than I’ve been before. Up until this point, I’m always feeling pretty happy about the book, but this edit does me in. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that I get to see the book one more time before it’s ready to go. I love finding as many mistakes and correcting them as I can. Better me than a reader. So why am I whining?

Because as I read, I find all of the things that I wish I’d done better. And believe me, I’m my own worst critic, so I ALWAYS find things that make me wince, but I can’t change them. And that drives me nuts.

When I finish going through the manuscript this time, all that sticks in my mind are the things I’m not happy with–the things that weren’t as smooth as I wanted them to be, or as dramatic as I’d hoped they’d be, or ….you name it. It’s a long time before I look at my story again and think, “Hey, it’s not so bad. It might even be pretty good.” But that takes me a while.

The only thing that saves me is starting a new book. Because I get caught up in the new characters, the new plot, and I feel pretty wonderful, like I’m more brilliant than I thought I was. My mind spins, trying to bring the characters to life, to make the plot work. By the middle of the thing, I usually struggle to keep the pacing going, so I applaud myself when I finally finish the last page. Hooray for me! And I’m happy with myself. I’m a wonderful writer again:) …Until I get those final page proofs, and I hang my head in shame. What was I thinking?

If you’d ask me if I’m a good writer, my answer would probably depend upon the day. If I’d just finished page proofs, I wouldn’t rank myself very high. I’d be full of doubts, worried about how I could improve. If it’s right after I finished a first draft, I’d be pretty darned good.

Thankfully, it takes a decent amount of time between turning in a book and having it published. The Body in the Beauty Parlor won’t come out until next March. That gives Kensington time to offer it on NetGalley and to try to get some early reviews. And it gives me time to like it again.

I don’t know if other writers go through the yo-yo of emotions about their writing that I do, but…The Body in the Beauty Parlor’s final proof is done. That, in itself, is a success, so yay for that! And I’m already working on the next Jazzi book, and at the moment, it’s pretty brilliant:) I’ll cling to that while I can. I know it’s a temporary high.

To all of you, just keep writing.