Here it is. My novel. All written. Complete with characters, a plot, sub-plot, climax, a point, numbered pages and half decent prose. It's all here, everything I need to tell this story. Now to make it shine.
Every time I hold this 330 page monster and feel the weight of all those pages, my heart starts pounding and I feel dizzy. Polish. That's all I need to do. After reading it, a friend told me to "polish and send." Right. Polish. I can do that. If my hands would stop sweating I could actually try typing. What does Anne Lamott say? "Bird by Bird." I pick up page one, stare at the opening line, and smile, because it's good. Then I read the whole paragraph. Not bad. This novel could be good. I plow on, finish page one with only a couple of minor adjustments, and begin to feel better. I focus on page two, and my heart starts pounding even louder because I wrote the wrong "there." It should be "their." I know that's not right! I know the proper use of "there," "their," and "they're," so how could I make such a ridiculous mistake? An amateur mistake. I try to breath and fix the problem, but every page shows me more: commas where there should be periods, "your" instead of "you're," too many sentences beginning with "But...," or "Then...," and horrible verbs, like "pleaded," "snapped," and "soothed." I've obviously overdone this no adverbs thing. Panic makes my vision blur, and then that critic, the one who lives in my head and looks like Angelina Jolie, starts laughing and telling me what a terrible writer I am. "Who's going to read this?" she asks. "You can't even spell terrified. It doesn't have a 'y'."
I take a walk, because it's either that or weep. I wish I'd paid more attention in my high school English class, rather than doodling or flirting with the guy sitting at the desk across from me. I might have learned how to use a comma properly. How did I get a B.A. and not learn how to use an elipse? Come to think of it, I didn't know that's what those dots are called until a week ago.
I know how to tell a story. I don't know how to polish it. I've never done this before, and I'm feeling like a four legged animal trying to wrap a present with transparent tape, wishing for thumbs. I dread going back to my novel and striking out the unnecessery words and adding better sensory details. I can't do it. I can't think of a way to say "She was happy," in a stronger way. Or perhaps I'm being too hard on myself?
Bird by bird, page by page, that's the only way to get it done. I've come too far and given up too many movie dates to stop now. Besides, my characters would never forgive me. They'll keep me up all night demanding attention until this novel is complete.
I go back to my desk, decide it's okay to sweat and type at the same time, and turn to page 3.