Don’t Abandon Your Dream, Part III – March 24, 2022, by Jude Hopkins
Months passed. I published a personal essay in The Los Angeles Times, as well as poems in various journals and was a runner-up in a personal essay contest.
The book, however, remained hidden in its file, coiled up with possibility.
What was it that got me going on it? Certainly most of it was my desire to write. But, if I’m completely honest, some of it was envy, too. I worked with writers at the university who launched their work, got published, got recognized. I knew I could do it, too. In spite of constructive criticism from some of the editors who’d looked at my manuscript, I always received this one, too: “You can definitely write.”
So I sent it off to a young editor whose sample edit showed her to be very attentive and helpful. She almost got me to open the file and get going.
All the suggestions, however, seemed burdensome and overwhelming. And I had enough burdens in my job and life.
After several other editors, I found one based on one sentence on her website. I contacted her. She suggested some significant overhauls, something no other editor had done.
Because of her, I finally got back to the manuscript on a regular basis. I read all of her comments and made changes, added scenes, deleted others. Then I went back to all the previous editors and read their comments, sifting through those I thought would be helpful and making the suggested changes.
Every good edit, of course, makes a writer think of her choices. By pointing out the weaknesses of the main character, I had to look within and question why I had made those choices. Only then could I confront what I’m now sure was the writer’s block that had kept me from actively working on the book.
Now I’m done with my rewrite, having added scenes and omitted extraneous details. I can be honest now, having looked at the manuscript through the editors’ eyes — and mine, after time and experience. My final draft will soon be sent to my ideal editor for one last polishing.
What did I learn?
In some ways, I compare my decades-long project to the longsuffering of the well-known novel’s protagonist. I never gave up on my book, learning as I went along, refining my ideas until finally realizing that what I wrote was authentic and real, in spite of my winding up with a very different book from what I started out with.
Unlike the heroine’s ill-starred journey, however, I will have realized my dream—wherever it winds up.