Too Close For Comfort?

14 Jul

or

Why you are in love with your first novel

 A Guest Post by Aya Tsintziras

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We’ve all heard the saying “you’re too close to your book, you need someone else to look at it with fresh eyes.” And while getting different opinions on your novel is an integral part of the editing process, no matter what stage of the path to publication you are at, what if being too close to your novel is a good thing?

I believe that it is.

Confession: I don’t have a CP. When I’m finished a draft of a book, I show it to my mom, who I consider my first reader, and she points out little stuff like typos and the bigger stuff like a plot point that doesn’t make total sense, or a secondary character’s boyfriend who has three different names (that happened in my current WIP). Then I revise. Then I send my book off to my agent. (Then more revisions, of course.) That’s it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have CPs. Whatever works for you. I don’t show my early drafts to more than two people, and that makes me very close to my work. In the case of my first novel, with each round of revisions I did with my editor, I started to feel more and more disconnected from my book, like it became something of its own, something that was less of a story I used to write in high school late at night in my bedroom or in my favourite Starbucks after school. It became something more like, well, a novel that would be published. (On August 26, 2011, to be specific.)

But I know the book so well I could basically recite it verbatim if you asked me. And this is a good thing, because if you get some comments on your novel during the editing process, for instance on changing a plot point, you can say, no, my character wouldn’t do that. You know your characters, because my theory is this: the relationship you have with your first novel is the most important relationship you will ever have with any book you write. Feel free to disagree with me on this – I’m not saying you won’t ever enjoy writing another book again. You’re a writer, so you love to write. But the first one is like your first love affair with a potential career, with the idea that you can really pursue the path to publication, with the fact that you are serious about this. And it’s probably true of every writer who makes the transition to author that their first novel is the one they will revise again and again for years upon years. I worked on my own first book for six years, counting before and after my book deal.

I don’t have the same attachment to my current WIP. Not that I don’t love working on it, not that I don’t think it’s another important story to tell. But it’s just not the same. And that doesn’t make me sad, it’s kind of bittersweet. Because my first novel is the only first novel I will ever have, and I feel a sense of real peace that soon it will make its way into the world.

So it’s okay to be “too close” to your novel, at least your first novel. You know the characters like they are your best friends, and you know what they would say and do in certain situations. And eventually, whether you’re sending off queries in the hopes of landing an agent, or waiting for the next round of revisions from your editor or agent, you will have to let go a little bit. And with each round of edits, you will let go a bit more. And when your book is on the shelves, that’s when you will let go the most, I bet. Because you’ve worked hard to make your dream come true, and now it’s time to work on your next book, and to continue living the dream.

~~~

Aya’s first novel, PRETTY BONES, will be published by James Lorimer on August 26, 2011. Aya lives in Toronto, where her days are filled with coffee, pop culture and, of course, writing. She is addicted to television, so it’s probably a good thing that come September, she’s off to grad school to study TV writing and producing. You can follow her on twitter @ayatsintziras and visit her website at www.ayatsintziras.com.

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7 Responses to “Too Close For Comfort?”

  1. Rowenna July 14, 2011 at 8:35 AM #

    Firsts are always important, aren’t they? Parents record first steps, first words…we always remember our first loves (well, I do!). I think you have a great point–it’s ok to relish those firsts that come with a first novel, to get really attached. I’ve noticed this with my own writing–while I can’t ever see revising the original idea out of my first novel, I’m about to butcher-edit my second into something entirely different. And it doesn’t bother me a bit. Congrats on the book coming out this summer!

    • Aya Tsintziras July 14, 2011 at 8:44 AM #

      Yes, all firsts are definitely important! Thanks so much! 🙂

  2. Stacy Green July 14, 2011 at 9:35 AM #

    I see what you mean. Getting attached is good, because it means you love your work and that shows through in your writing.

    Now, I finished my WIP in June and was amazingly lucky to find a great critique partner. Her fresh eyes have helped tremendously in pointing out things I was just missing because I’d read it so many times, and she’s been a huge help in working through some plot issues.

  3. Asia Morela July 14, 2011 at 11:19 AM #

    I quite agree with your analysis, and I think I feel the same as a writer. I like my stories to stay close to me as long as I can, and not show them to too many people too soon. I don’t even have a “first reader” as such; maybe gotta figure that out for when I’m finished with my draft. 😉

    Congratulations on your first book and working on your second!

    • Aya Tsintziras July 14, 2011 at 11:58 AM #

      Everyone always quotes Stephen King’s point about keeping the door closed when you’re writing your first draft — and I agree completely! The first draft is just you and the story. And thank you! Good luck with your draft!

  4. Lana G. July 18, 2011 at 7:37 AM #

    Aya Tzintziras really has the clarity of her thoughts and her heart. I cannot wait to read the Pretty Bones.
    Lana G, NYC.

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