Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Turning Words into Conversations

All my life I’ve enjoyed stringing words together and watching what appears on the page. While, initially, the writing process is solitary, at some point you bring in readers. Some authors do this early on: members of their writing groups read ten to fifteen pages every few weeks throughout the gestation period. Others, like me, wait until the whole manuscript is finished before handing it off to a few trusted readers. We then wait, anxiously, for their feedback. It’s not unlike sending your child off to school for the first time. Will others like her? Will he behave? Is she as delightful and precocious as I think? (Yes, yes, and no.)

You ask for feedback and, guess what? Your readers give it. Thus begins the first of many conversations you, the author, will have about your manuscript. A manuscript that is no longer entirely yours once you open the door and invite others in. “I liked this part.” “I found this part (the same part) kind of boring.” “Loved the protagonist.” “I just couldn’t relate to the protagonist.”

And so you turn to the solitary task of revising, but the writing feels different now because others have read your words and been moved by them (for better or worse). A conversation that you previously had just with yourself now has other people listening in.

Then you send the manuscript to your agent (or an agent, or many agents) and the conversation grows. The agent sends it to an editor. The conversation grows even more. That editor buys the manuscript, and the conversation grows again, and now it’s no longer just about the story. It’s about marketing and cover art and blurbs and reviews and marketing.

Soon publicists become involved and managing editors and copy editors. And the marketing department is still weighing in via your editor. And then you’re talking to booksellers and bloggers and media people. Once the book is published you again hear from readers. These are not all family and friends (although some, maybe a lot, will be). They won’t all like your book. But, if you’re hearing from them, through email or reviews or in person, they were moved by your words and are now part of the conversation.

A whole little industry evolves around your manuscript. A manuscript that started with you, alone at your desk, coming up with an idea, writing down that first word, and then the 80,000 or so that followed.

Writing is a kind of alchemy. Authors assemble letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs… And, in doing so, create emotion and conversation. What an amazing process that I’m blessed to be part of.

With that, I hope you’ll leave a comment about this post, or books that moved you to contact an author or write a review, or any other topic that seems relevant.

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