Leaving the First Circle Behind

For an entire month I stepped away from my novel. At the beginning of July, I sent a digital bundle of what could only be described as a piece of myself to a handful of beta readers. I tried my best to ignore that only the day before I had been working feverishly on this same bundle, my first novel. I tried to set aside the 15 or so months it took to get this far. Tried to dream up new projects, new ideas – in other words, distractions.

Ideas came and went. I could never commit to a long term project. I settled on creating a home for a series of short stories I wanted to write. Wrote a bit, read, got caught up around the house.

But the book gnawed at me. It was a singularly unexplainable experience. I wasn’t anxious – I’d run most of the book through my crit group and already had a few people read it front to back with a heavy eye on critique. I wasn’t fearful – I’ve gotten over the paranoia about letting your babies out into the wild, like any author needs to do. I wasn’t even dancing on the pins and needles of anticipation. I was…idle.

Fifteen months is a long time to think about something. To tweak, prune, slice, dice, sculpt; to be ready to both nurture and destroy. It takes so much from you and demands even the quietest moments of your days. It felt odd to put it all aside for that long.

Most people might welcome the break. Most normal, healthy people. I’m a bit tunnel-visioned when it comes to projects. I want to keep working until it’s done. I’ll work past reasonable quitting time or break time and refuse to throw in the towel even when the most intelligent thing would be to take a break and recharge. Cursing is obligatory.

There were plenty of times I worked on other things during the 15 months. But I could always pop open Scrivener and tweak a few passages or add a few scenes. However, with the whole thing in the hands of my beta readers and having just completed a top to bottom revision, I knew the best thing was to sit and wait. There was no sense in making alterations until I’d heard back from fresh voices.

I had a short story that I had written in the final days of revisions so I took that to my crit group for feedback. I completed one more story – three less than I intended to write during the project break.  That one was supposed to be a comedy but ended more on the tragic side of things. But overall, it was torture.

Once the beta readers started to get back in touch though, I suddenly felt alive. Warmed up and thrust out of stasis. And the feedback, good and bad, was goddamn amazing. Better than I’d hoped to receive.

So now, I’ve ascended from Limbo and I’m ready to put the polishing touches on Collateral Damage. I’ll shop it around, hopefully find an agent and be ready to launch into a new project while I let the publishing process take its course. I know I won’t be done with all the work on that end, but Spencer, my protagonist, will have found some level of peace and I’ll be able to find someone (or something) else who needs their story told in the meantime.

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