So, it's been awhile since I've blogged here and even longer since I've had a Novel 101 post. Lots of reasons for this, but no good excuses.
The quote above is from my favorite Shakespeare play, King Lear. And, the point of it has been made clear to me yet again. (That's one of the totally cool things about my old buddy Bill--the truths he writes about apply on so many levels and keep teaching me even when I'm not looking for it.). Let me try to explain.
I'm not a patient person. I try, but it's a struggle. (Just ask my family.) But, I know that plenty of things are better with age. With ripening. The tomatoes in my garden. Wine. I know that things take time. There are processes which should not and cannot be rushed. I mean, heck, I'm a writer--getting an agent and publishing my first book took seven years. I've never been in the army, but I sometimes think the phrase "hurry up and wait" came from the submission process rather than the military.
But, as Shakespeare wrote, "ripeness is all." Things happen when they're meant to happen, being ready matters, and don't rush things that shouldn't be rushed. I know this; I just don't always embrace it.
Then, at the end of last week, after finishing the workbook for Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass, and after reviewing my notes and ideas and list of "what ifs" for my revision, I pulled out a hard copy of the MS of my novel, the one I thought I'd finished in February, but now know I haven't. The copy I hadn't looked at, not once, since February 28. And I started reading it. Almost immediately I went in search of several colored flair pens and these handy dandy little page flags:
Because, I'd discovered something in my MS--it wasn't as "done" as I'd thought. Having not looked at it in four months had given me some perspective, some "ripening"--I was finally ready to see the scenes that needed sharpening, the lines that needed some edge, the passages of prose that needed to be (eek!) killed off.
Even more important, as I started reading I understood some things about my protagonist I hadn't seen clearly before. She'd ripened as well, into someone even more complex than I'd initially seen.
We'd needed the distance from each other, the aging, the perspective--as much as I hadn't wanted to be patient, it had been a good thing (okay, there, Mom, I said it. I finally learned it. Blah, blah, blah, okay, okay, okay, patience is a virtue!).
So, that's my tidbit of writerly wisdom for the week (or maybe month, we'll see how things go). As hard as it can be, as much as I might want to send the MS off to readers, to my agent, to the world, I have to wait for the ripening--I have to allow for the cool days of spring and the warm rains of summer and the sunshine and moonlight and all that it requires. Then I have to look at it again and I have to trust that when it's truly ready, I'll know because my own words will tell me.