Archive for March, 2009

Rereading my first novel

Quite awhile ago, after finishing the last revision in July and sending Shadows off to my agent, I tossed the book up on lulu.com, which is a self-printing service. I set it as private since I didn’t want anyone buying the book (publishers get very upset if your book was previously available, for good reason); I just wanted to have the ability to buy a single copy for myself. I thought it would be neat to have something tangible to hold in my hands. It would be a valuable motivator to help me get through the edits during the times when I would want to stick a fork in my eye at the very thought of dealing with the manuscript.

I didn’t end up purchasing a copy due to various reasons. In December, my partner went into my lulu account, secretly ordered a copy of the book, and gave it to me for Christmas. It was one of the coolest Christmas gifts I’ve ever received. There’s something surreal and wonderful about holding an actual paper copy of your own book – all the words you wrote and edited and bled onto the page for – in your hands.

But I didn’t read it. I started to and made it about ten pages in and it just felt weird. So I stopped and it went on the bookshelf. Maybe it’ll be a collector’s edition someday, I thought. Once I’m famous. I can ebay it for charity. Somebody will pay a stupid amount of money to have the only existing copy of the first draft of my first novel.

But we’re about ready to start sending excerpts of Shadows to publishers, which means I need to write a synopsis. In order to do that I needed to reread my book. So I figured, hell, why not read the paper copy?

Tonight the house was quiet. I almost never drink but I made myself a hot chocolate with a half-shot of Kahlua in it, grabbed a couple Cadbury Eggs (those particular candies played a large role in the writing of the manuscript), put on my iPod with my Shadows playlist playing, and settled myself on the couch with my book. Over four hours or so I read it start-to-finish (I’m a very fast reader).

It was a surreal experience. I hadn’t read more than isolated chapters since July, and so a lot of it felt new. Yet I knew all of it intimately. I was reading both as a reader and as the writer; the reader in me responded to the parts I was supposed to respond to, while as a writer I was assessing the pacing, the conflict, and other aspects of the story. It was both an intensely subjective and an objective experience. There was both a distance and an intimacy and it was quite strange. I saw the flaws and I also saw the parts that worked, and there were parts where I thought, “Oh, I have GOT to fix that,” and parts where I thought, “Holy shit, I wrote that?”

And once I’d finished I held it in my hands and looked at it and I knew that whether it ever gets published or not, I have done something that many people want to do and never achieve: I have written a novel. A real novel, hundreds of pages long. It’s a little mind-blowing to hold my own book in my hands, having read it, and know that this is mine.