Do you remember this famous story of Oscar Wilde’s describing a day’s work at editing one of his poems? It goes like this:
This madness describes my hesitancy in re-reading my works after they have been published.
The great question to ask is this: how many times should a writer edit before stopping? Some famous writers edit AFTER publication and then come out with new editions. More madness.
Why do I bring up this quote again? A few weeks ago, my friend “A” had suggested to her friend “S” that her favorite of my novels is CONCERNING GEORGIA STEKKER. She suggested that "S" read it.
“S” started reading it, was enthralled, and hoped the novel would hold up so that she could suggest it to her book club on July 16.
I wrote to A: “Your friend is validating your taste. The novel won’t disappoint her as she keeps reading. What fun this is!”
Some of S’s direct correspondence to me follows:
1. I am up all night finishing the book. It is brilliant, but I am sure your editors told you that. I mentioned the book to my therapist, and said I was in touch with you. Would it be all right for me to pass on your email to her? If not I understand...
2. Thank you for that clarification. I think the psychological implications are what create the brilliance of your novels.
3. Just finished the book @2 am. Could not put it down! Question to a references on the last page. . . I have just started your novel THE WAY THEY SEE. I hope and pray you are writing another book right now.
Now I come to the reason for including all this in the blog. I could not immediately identify the character about whom "S" speculated on the last page of the novel. After all, I wrote a few novels since Stekker. So I went to the novel itself and combed all through it to make certain I had the correct character in mind. Well, I came across passages that were well written, but I feared that around a corner would lurk some passages needing editing. I did not find any. Woosh! Relief! Just as actors refuse to look at their own acting once it is up there on the screen. They don’t want to see the flaws. Their joy was in the performance itself.
I came away from my novel, startled that writing is a thing apart from who I am in everyday life. I carry around my writer’s voice as if it belongs to another person.
The opera singer Pavarotti said of his voice, “I carry it around as a separate thing and I take care of it.” Yes. It’s like that. All those novels that I wrote are over there, and my husband, daughter and son-in-law are over here.
And yet, Sam Shephard, Pulitzer playwright and actor who suffered Lou Gehrig’s disease, ADL, said in his final days, “I need to write every day to be myself.”
Perhaps you would like to read what my editor Trai Cartwright wrote about this novel:
Perhaps your book club would be interested in CONCERNING GEORGIA STEKKER, or one of my other novels. Do tell your book club what kind of novels I write. Say that I treat aspects of male/female relationships, bringing romantics into the real world.