Tonight I opened my manuscript, my travel memoir, my baby.
The date stamped on the Word doc told me the last time I made edits to Please Send Pants was nearly a year ago, in July 2011. I can hardly believe it’s been a YEAR since I looked at my book.
I opened it because I was inspired by Wild, a fantastic memoir by Cheryl Strayed about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m 65 percent of the way through it, my Kindle tells me, and I can’t stop reading. It’s one of those books that so pulls you into the story that you think about it even when you’re not reading, remember the moments as though they’re real life.
The story has natural similarities to mine because Cheryl hiked the PCT alone, just like I backpacked through Africa solo. I can taste her feelings, especially her fear, because I’ve been there. And like Cheryl, I’ve written those feelings down.
Please Send Pants is now in my literary agent’s hands, and though I like to tell all on this blog, it’s smart to leave it at that for now. Besides, the point of this post isn’t to give you a book update. It’s to tell you how it feels to read your manuscript after you’ve put it aside for a year.
In all fairness, I’ve only read the first two chapters. I sent them to my Kindle, so I could read them as though I was reading someone else’s book, with distance and space and clarity. Anyone who’s written a book will tell you it’s nearly impossible to read your manuscript with any of those things, not once you’ve put so many hours and days and years into the story.
In fact, when I date-stamped that Word doc nearly a year ago, I distinctly remember hating the book. Not hating the story itself, but hating the act of working on it so strongly that I could not wait to bury it amongst the files on my computer. By then I’d read it so many times, made so many edits, that each phrase was foggy, trite, hated. I was so sick of looking at that damn manuscript.
But something wonderful happened when I read the first two chapters tonight.
I wanted to make changes, of course. I’ve grown as a writer over the last year, practiced my conversational writing and story-telling through this blog in particular, and I could see places where I wanted to add details or ideas or descriptions like they were already marked with a bold red pen.
But I also thought to myself, Oh my God, this is actually good.
I’d worried it wouldn’t be. I was nervous to click open the doc on my Kindle, scared that I’d want to pull the book from my agent’s hands. But with the fog lifted, with the hatred gone and distance in its place, I could see that the book was good. It was actually GOOD.
Someday — hopefully sooner rather than later — you will all have the opportunity to read that book. And Insha’Allah, you will think it’s good, too.
When was the last time you put your writing aside? When you returned to it, did you see it in new light?