Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Saying Goodbye

by Donna Delgrosso

“I stood there with the envelope dangling from my fingers. I could not open my hand to let it go. I was ready to turn around and take it back home, when my dear husband yanked the thing out of my hand and threw it in the slot.” That’s what Jennifer Ashley remembers about sending off her first manuscript.

I wish I could tell my own spine-tingling story. Some nail biter kind of thing about how everything around me went on in slow motion as I walked into the Fed-Ex store, heart knocking against my ribs. And how the cold breeze of the air-conditioner blew against my neck as I slowly unclenched my fingers and dropped the two pound package in the slot. Double checking it to be sure it made it in of course. Then, I would blink away tears as I turned away and silently said goodbye to my characters for good.

But I can’t.

So, I decided to live vicariously through my friends and ask them their feelings about saying goodbye to their manuscripts.

I have to admit, their answers shocked me. I fully expected everyone to talk about loss. Instead, their responses were inspiring.

Vicki Gaia remembers this about letting go of her first manuscript. “I felt elated because I finally 'did it'. I felt sick to my stomach, because rejection is never, never fun. I just knew who ever was going to read it would be thinking – ‘Sheesh, and she thinks she can write!’"

I’ve discovered in my time in Desert Rose that at some level, we all feel sort of the same, like a cosmic writer E.S.P. or something. Time after time, I heard the same kind of comments. We’re all a little nervous; we want everything to be flawless and we’re all a little anxious.

Donna Hatch, whose first book is The Stranger She Married, offered this. “When I finish a manuscript and send it off, I'm relieved it's finished, and I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I'm also terrified because I fear it's not perfect and I can no longer make changes which means it will be immortalized in its imperfection.”

Donna isn’t the sole owner of those thoughts, though. Connie Flynn related almost the same feelings. I have two reactions when I send off a manuscript. “The first is relief. Huge relief, because I'm one of those authors who works like wildfire the last few days before the due date. …I remember every small detail I failed to correct before the manuscript left my hands. I can't look at a computer, I know I just sent out the worst manuscript ever and it will ruin my career.

Imperfection? Small details? I’ve heard horror stories about re-writes and wonder, how can anything that you’ve re-written So. Many. Times. be anything but the best it can be? Then again, a final printing lasts forever. And if your lucky, forever and ever.

So…We’ve finally sent the manuscript away, what comes next?

Connie Flynn put it simply, A good night's sleep and a heavy meal (or is it the other way around) and I'm over that and on to my next book.”

Is it really that easy??!!

I’ve come to realize that saying goodbye to characters isn’t just about drama and self criticism. It’s about hiking over one mountain and moving on to the next. Positively. Letting go of a manuscript is really about embracing success.

Remember Jennifer Ashley’s struggle at the mail box? She doesn’t do that anymore. She e-mails her manuscripts. That would be nice wouldn’t it? “It's still not easy, though. I *always* want to change something. When I read the page proofs of each book, I'm always thinking I should have done that differently."

I’ll take that. But when I do drop my manuscript off for the first time, I’m going to bring a crowd, then we can all go somewhere and toast to our successes!


Anonymous said...

You'll understand soon enough Donna. :) I always feel sad when I send that manuscript off. I'm saying goodbye to characters I've spent months with. But I usually get over it quickly because I've got other characters inside my head just waiting to have their story told. Great article.

Donna Del Grosso said...

Thanks, Kim! I am having a great time getting to know my characters, that's for sure!!!

Laurie Schnebly Campbell said...

Donna, I remember coming home from work where I'd gone to type the end of my first manuscript and telling Pete, "I finished it!"

Then bursting into tears.

I don't think anything is ever harder than letting go of the first book, because once you've done THAT you know you can survive.

Donna Del Grosso said...

I'm looking forward to that feeling and imagining it often. What's wrong with a few tears over losing an old friend????

Erin Quinn (aka Erin Grady) said...

Great article, Donna. I guess it's like manage to forget the pain once you have the baby in your hands. :-) Of course, then the PAIN really begins, lol.

Carol Webb said...

Ah, sending it off. That first time was stomach twisting for me. I was so afraid of what the feedback would be. Strangely, now I can't wait to get it off via email or the post office, because some of my characters have turned into visitors that have overstayed there welcome. :)

Shelley Coriell said...

Donna, I'm one of those writers who loves sending forth my little darlings. Perhaps it's because the possibilities are limitless. Perhaps it's because letting go of my beloved characters means I get to meet new ones. Lovely post!

Donna said...

I can't wait to experience. Thanks for reading my article and for you support!