Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Reading, Part II

On Wednesday I finished the first read-through of my novel. It took longer than expected. I got almost halfway through it in a single day; it turned into more of a slog after that. I’m happy to say that it wasn’t slow-going because I had to vomit into a bucket every page or two. No, I didn’t hate my words, didn’t hate my story, and I didn’t try to rewrite it all while reading. It’s just a slow process and life turned busier over the last four/five days.
Before I started the reading I imagined I’d breeze through it as if it were someone else’s book, something pulled off the bookshelf at Barnes & Noble or the local library. Then I’d sit back, puff my pipe, stroke my chin, and say “Hmmm” and “I see” in a professorial manner. I’d let it float around my brain for a few days and then it would all become clear: I’d know how to make the shiny parts shinier and the broken parts healthy. And then I’d start rewriting and have a beautifully polished manuscript for someone to read.
In that imaginary world, the minor things – spelling errors, double periods, and the like – were to be ignored on the first run through. My goal was to focus on the world, the story, the characters. Is it exciting? Are the stakes high enough? Does enough happen? Does it make sense? Forget the minor nitty stuff, I’ll catch it on the next run through.
That lasted until page 2, when I hit my first typo (I’m shocked I made it that far without one!). I found that I couldn’t ignore them, and it really didn’t make sense to ignore them, anyway. Still, the thing that really slowed me down was the constant note making. In the manuscript itself, there are x’s, dashes, words scribbled down, brackets, cross outs and my new favorite, the asterisk. And there’s a notepad with eighteen double-sided pages of notes about the novel, things that wouldn’t quite fit in the margins of the manuscript. Everything from ‘p. 4 tense is/was’ to my personal favorite: ‘p. 142 – NOPE, NOPE AND NOPE again.’ I can’t remember just what was so wrong on page 142, but it must have been a whopper.
The next step for me is to go back and reconcile all the notes in my notepad with things in the manuscript (and to decipher my chickenscratch handwriting). We’re going away for the weekend so I’m not going to have much opportunity to do anything on this at all, but it’s a good time for the professor in my head smoke his pipe, stroke his chin and say “hmm” and “yessss” and “I see.” With any luck he’ll come up with some good insights that will let me attack the problems in my manuscript and turn ‘NOPE, NOPE AND NOPE again’ into ‘YES, YES, AND YES again.’

2 Responses

  1. Thanks, Carrie. Definitely a lot of work. It was a good weekend. Best of all, I woke up early this morning thinking about a key point in my novel and how to make it better. Broke out the notebook and managed to get enough down so that it's not lost.

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