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Past the Wall

Once my sister mentioned the artist/graphic designer we'd grown up with as our neighbor, I knew I had to ask her to proofread my book. Not only is she incredibly well read and articulate, she's one of the most precise individuals I've ever met. Case in point: she spent over seven hours making my sister's chocolate mouse birthday cake, and when it looked like a work of art, she still wasn't entirely satisfied. If there was ever someone who would find my undiscovered errors spanning an entire manuscript, she would.

Before I get any further in explaining these late in the game edits, let me tell you I have a wonderful, insightful editor who actually works for Harper Collins as a day job. She brought "Swiftwater" along much farther than I ever could have. But my newbie mistake was handing it over for her review before I had other readers tell me places or plot concepts that could be changed. After I'd made a lot more revisions to the manuscript, I didn't necessarily have funds available for another professional edit, so I tried to fill that role myself. Next time I write a novel, my editor will be the last person who reads it.

Moving along to this past April: I thought my proofreader would find ten to twelve glitches, not the pages-upon-pages she handed me the second time we met at a busy Starbucks. I'd read "Swiftwater" aloud to catch errors. I'd had more than ten friends read for clarity and precision. I'd thought I was beyond this point, that there wouldn't be so much looking back, but I was wrong on that count. While my story was intact, my close eye could no longer identify errors here and there: hyphens instead of dashes, "windowpane" instead of "windowsill," "uninhabited" instead of "uninhibited."

As I watched her start shuffling through the pages of corrections-some of them so obvious I should have caught-I felt myself start to burn up a little as I tend to do when something's too much for me. I was instantly overwhelmed, upset I hadn't found these things myself, wondering if she could possibly be right, or if these changes-upon-changes were simply her stylistic differences. I felt dizzy, as if the start of a headache was coming on, and while I kept thanking her for her hard, swift work (she'd read "Swiftwater" in just a few days), I didn't know what to do next. Though I haven't run a full marathon, I thought of the wall runners sometimes hit as the miles thicken and thought I'd surely hit it. While grateful for my friend's work, I didn't know how I'd summon the endurance needed to get this book off to press. I backhanded a few tears on the twenty-something minute drive home, feeling a surge of humiliation and defeat.

I wish I'd been in better spirits when I got home, but I admittedly locked myself in my bedroom and tried to start brushing off the so-called dirt or disappointment I was experiencing. To get back where I needed to be, I was led to pray, transition my mindset from one of "this can't be done" to "get back to work."

Later that night I started pouring over her notes, and while my friend and I did have a few stylistic differences, what I saw on the pages were either obvious or much improved versions of places of the novel I'd thought were settled. Dreading the thought of going back to my editor/layout professional, I tried to identify only the most essential places for edits. Before long, though, I'd included most of my friend's modifications. By morning I discovered that my proofreader was well versed in InDesign, and she was the one able to fix my glitches in both my print and e-book versions. In short, her work proved a double blessing. I couldn't see the favorable outcome this experience would have until we explored all our options.

In all honesty, there was nothing especially easy about writing my novel and seeing it through to publication. It was fun when my imagination took flight, and I initially got to play with words and meet my characters. There were even parts of the editing process I enjoyed since I was assembling a world of my own making. But it got more uphill hard toward the end, and while I never lost my love for writing, I questioned if "Swiftwater" would make it to be the public or if it was worth it anymore.

I don't know who coined the phrase "you didn't come this far to only come this far," but it's something I relate with. And you might too, if you're writing your own book, trying to make it as an artist, studying for a trade, or what have you. In looking back on what helped me past this particular "wall," I'd have to say it was a combination of encouragement from my teammates (thank you, Jennifer and Elli), a short time of regrouping (positive self talk) and a second wind ("here are my options").. You'll feel better about yourself for not giving in, for dusting yourself off after you've hit the wall and knowing that the struggle helped make the finish line all the more meaningful.

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