Writing is a journey, yeah?
You start off uncertain whether the two words you just committed to the blank page even belong in the same zip code with one another, or whether, like tinfoil and microwave ovens, their relationship is doomed before the heat even gets turned up. But you press on, smashing words together with the blithe indifference of the LHC, watching for sparks, looking for anything that resonates, and before you know it, you have a thing.
Maybe it’s a novel. Or a screenplay. Or a short story. Or a poem. Or a lyric. But you have this thing, born from the unfathomable space between your ears, and it’s raw and wriggling and it may or may not have a chance in this world, but it’s yours.
And at first, it’s all: whoa. I did that. I created this thing from nothingness. And you float on that godlike feeling for a while. But it only lasts for so long, because we’re talking about literature of one caliber or another, here, and literature is only as important as its audience decides it is. And that means that, first and foremost, what it needs is an audience.
But it’s not ready for an audience yet. Too many rough edges, too many unshapen limbs, too many vestigial tails. You shape it, you trim it, you coddle it in some places and you axe its redundant bits in others, never really knowing if you’re helping it or dooming it, only trying your best to give it a chance to breathe the air of this strange and indifferent world. Like it or not, eventually that moment comes, when it must leave the nest and survive or die trying.
The second draft of my novel is out today to three beta readers. The first was my wife, and as much as I love and appreciate her for reading my drivel, I can’t trust her feedback alone. She’s more or less obligated to tell me it’s good, and that I haven’t been banging my head against the keyboards of various computers for the last seventeen months for nothing. And I value her feedback, I do — she’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am — but I’m (hopefully) writing for an audience that’s larger than just my wife. And I’m not ashamed to tell you, even though I know these beta readers personally, I am scared sharknadoless to get feedback from them.
It’s odd. I am hoping that they’ll be impartial enough to give me the feedback that I need to better the story, but I’m terrified of what that feedback will be.
Still, it’s a necessary step in the process. In order to grow, we must shed our skins, leave behind the old uses that threaten to keep us from becoming the new and future uses. (That’s “us”es, not “uses”.)
Of course, that doesn’t make it easy.