As a writer, I live inside my head a lot. And when I’m writing one of my romance novels, I’m literally eating, breathing, sleeping, and talking to my people all the time! And yes, there are times when they talk back to me as willful children . . . but that’s another story.
My hero and heroine become so real to me, it’s as if they are close friends of mine. I enjoy the time spent hanging out with them. I’m on the roller coaster ride with these two, through their ups and down. I create awful situations for them to be involved in, and yet I love throwing them a life jacket and helping them save themselves at the last moment. I’ve even wept tears of joy when they’ve discovered love together, and I finally give them their deserved Happily Ever After.
One of the worst things about a writer’s journey is actually finishing a novel. I liken it to a great book I’m reading. The better the book, the more quickly I begin reading until I’m racing through it. Then, suddenly, I slam on the brakes when I only have a couple of more chapters to go. I don’t want the story to end! I turn the pages slowly, savoring each moment, and while I usually am happy with how the book turns out, I deflate a bit, knowing I’ll never read these characters again.
(My latest solution? I’m hooked on series and get to read about the same people over and over again!)
As I writer, I feel this pain magnified hundred times over once I finish the last scene of my book. These are my babies! I created them from scratch. I imagined their looks, their back story, their personalities. I gave them a place to live. Family and friends. I mixed in conflicts and emotions. And darn it, I brought this couple together! They found the love of their life because of me!
So finishing their love story is hard because after living with my hero and heroine for weeks and months, I have to let them go. That is very depressing.
But . . . you don’t want to do this too quickly. Too many authors, upon finishing a manuscript, want to break out the champagne and ship that puppy off to their editors.
Not a good idea.
I’ve found that when I finish up a manuscript, I’m still too caught up in my characters’ story to be objective. I’m way too close to their relationship and the action. I’ve learned the best thing to do when completing a novel is to sit on it. Yes, put it away. Get over these people. Move on with my life. Start a new book. Create new people and new settings and situations.
And after a couple of months, I pull out the completed manuscript and read it straight through with fresh eyes. Because I’ve divorced myself from my emotional closeness to these characters and their story, I’m able to be calm and objective. I’m not so sensitive to changing things around. Cutting a scene. Adding something new. Most of all, I can catch inconsistencies that are now glaring, screaming at me to be fixed.
Once I make all these finishing touches, THEN is the time to email that manuscript off to my editor, hoping she’ll fall in love with these characters and their story as much as I did.
All of this happened with my December release, A Bit of Heaven on Earth. I finished it and put it aside for a good long while and worked on other projects. When I came back to it, it was as if it were a new story again. Sure, I fixed a few bumps—but I also fell in love all over again with Elizabeth and Gavin (and Aldred and Robert and countless other characters at Kentwood).
I feel by letting the manuscript sit for a bit, it fermented like fine wine, and the distance allowed me to make it the best possible story before sending it to my editor. So now is the time, with its publication this week, to break out my bubbly and toast my living creation. Here’s to Gavin & Elizabeth and A Bit of Heaven on Earth!