Removing the Dashes, Inserting the Quotation Marks, and Reconciling the Names: Getting Ready for the Betas

Three nights ago I wrote the last chapter—for now—of my novel. This is the full first draft of something I’d been working on, intermittently,  for two years, and for the past three months, every day except Christmas. It’s in need of a rigorous edit, the next stage of the project, but I felt an endorphin high for a day after I put the period at the end of the last sentence.

Congratulations, friends acquaintances, and relatives wrote on my social media pages. I heard from fellow writers, former students (including one man, who as a silly sixteen year old, was a student in the  creative writing class I taught decades ago, at Westhill High School in Stamford Connecticut), cousins, my former pastor, the respective fiancées of my two nephews, colleagues, and one of my grown children.

And I loved that.

But congratulating a writer who has merely produced the messy first draft is like congratulating a woman who has announced her pregnancy. Good news, but–

The truly hard work, the pain, the challenging process of finishing the work lies ahead.

I’m starting on all that today: the adding of quotation marks to replace the Joyce-esque dashes I used for dialogue when I began the draft months ago; the correction of typos, “form” for “from” and the like. The search for consistency in the names I gave minor characters. Was that guy called Charlie or Gene? Was the father’s business partner Dan or Dickie?

Did the bachelor uncle from Pittsburgh ever marry, or did he stay single?

Then I’ll print the 500 –plus word behemoth out, mail it to my beta readers, and work on other projects—a short story, a poetry collection—while I wait for their critiques. Then, the real work begins–tweaking the plot, rewriting whole sections, cutting extraneous things even though I loved them. Excision. Trashing. Pruning. Polishing.

Recalling my first pregnancy, I remember a friend who had two daughters saying, ”You’re going to like being pregnant a lot more than having the baby.” I liked it best after I had the baby, my dear, firstborn, now thirty-year old son.

I think this may be the case with my latest baby, my as-yet-untitled novel.

Now, for me, it’s back to inserting double quotation marks and deleting those Joycean dashes.

One thought on “Removing the Dashes, Inserting the Quotation Marks, and Reconciling the Names: Getting Ready for the Betas

  1. When Walt Whitman published his first edition of “Leaves of Grass” – Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote him, “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” So with apologies to the great transcendentalist, I great you with the same enthusiasm.
    Your draft is done – and whatever follows next is less important . The work is completed and you have your book – warts and all. I am so proud of you.
    I remember also the feeling of having finished my book and yes, it was like giving birth – only better, better, better.
    I want to know more about the subject, the title, the setting – will you tell me or do I have to wait to see it on the best seller list.
    So like all who love you, I congratulate you with all my heart. Bravo! Bravo! and yet again Bravo!

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