Sunday, November 23, 2008

Waves of Doubt

It must have been the fog.

The commute into the City was beautiful. Near the Berkeley marina the fog lay thick on the ground. I imagined walking serenely through the fields, rather than writing another grant application at work. Crossing the Bay Bridge, one could not see the water below. Only fog: thick soup-like. All that showed of the Golden Gate Bridge was the highest parts at each end.

The financial district, where I drop off my casual carpool passengers, is clear, but as soon as I head out towards the university, the fog engulfs me. Twenty minutes later, I am in the office. No one else will come in for another hour, maybe 90 minutes. There is plenty of time to spend editing my manuscript.

And then it hits me.

Is this the right name for the book? Am I right to be writing it in UK English? What do I know about book cover design? How am I going to get reviews when I don’t know anyone?

Most of the hour passes. I have not touched the keyboard, instead staring out into the fog. I should see a residential neighborhood with students scrambling for parking places and rushing to class.

This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of publishing independently. My wife will listen sympathetically and my friends’ in the writer’s group will give their opinion, but there is no agent to turn to, no publisher who has deeply invested through an advance and battled for the book on numerous acquisition boards.

I open my email. At the top of my inbox is a general email sent out a few months ago by Alan Rinzler, announcing his blog. I keep it there to remind me to visit it once a week. I first met Alan, when he graciously agreed to address our writers group, and we had all been impressed by his knowledge and experience that had begun at Harvard and has stretched over decades. Alan has worked closely with Toni Morrison, Robert Ludlum and Clive Cussler.

Enough said.

I make the appointment for a consultancy and prepare a presentation folder and topics, just as I would for a business meeting with a new foundation or potential donor.

I promise myself that I will ask succinct questions, then shut up, listen and absorb. We meet at his house and I receive an hour of his undivided attention. His answers are honest and clear: my mistakes clearly highlighted. I leave with mixed feelings. I have a lot more work to do on my manuscript before it is finished and I can send it in to the publisher. The UK English must be converted to America English, the title has been changed, and I have been told that no one is going to help me get reviews – I have to network, network, network.

There’s a lot to do, at a time when my work is demanding increasingly more from me. And a January deadline is now looking extremely optimistic (yeah, I know many of you, my writer friends, smiled when I’d declared a D-date back in September).

But my eyes are on the prize. I want to hold a book that is of the highest quality, in terms of story, grammar, punctuation, dialogue and dialect. I was reading reviews in the UK Self Publishing magazine this morning – a full one-third of those I read reflected on shabby grammar, spelling or page layout.

My novel might never become a bestseller (though it might!), but I’m going to be damn proud of it, and know I did the best I could.

Today is Saturday. I am sitting at a coffee shop on the East Bay ready to begin making the changes. The sun is shining – no fog.

Good Writing,

Alon

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