I came to the last word of the first draft of my third novel yesterday morning. This marks, of course, not the end of the hard work, but only the beginning of the end. All the vegetables have been chopped and sautéed, and now I’ll turn down the fire and let it simmer for three or four weeks. Then begins the delicate process of adjusting the spices. The second draft becomes the first revision. And it’s this second draft that will go to my editors and first readers.
Editors are vital, even when you are dedicated to going it alone. If you’re writing, you are not going it alone anyway, since the only reason to write is to reach other people. Otherwise you may as well just talk to yourself. Even a sheltered poet such as Dickinson wrote to reach out, wrote to share. And you need to know whether you ‘re getting across to those pesky Other Humans out there.
But (to continue the facile culinary metaphor) you have been standing over the cutting board and cooking pot for weeks on end; your sense of taste and smell are habituated to the kitchen air and heat, and to the idea you had when you first began swinging the knife. Now is the time to call someone in from another room and have them take a taste.
So I’ll be working on short pieces for a while–making the side dishes, if you will, and pulling a cork or two of house-made wine–then get back to the main course. It’s a long process: write, wait, revise, call in opinions, revise again, and maybe one more time, or two, then proofread, and then hope for the best.
And it’s not till you sit down at my literary table and dig in that I’ll know whether the dish is a success or not.
Better serve up some more wine to get you ready…!