I attended my first writers’ conference a few weeks ago. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who talked and thought about writing and books and reading and storytelling as much as I do – and they didn’t look at me like I’d grown a second head when I described my writing process or gushed about the diction in my favorite novels.
Being surrounded by likeminded individuals, I’m learning, is very affirming.
While there, I had the opportunity to pitch my idea for a novel to editors and agents from publishers of all shapes and sizes all over the country. It was a rather terrifying process, but I connected with an editor and an agent who both seemed genuinely interested in reading my story and asked to see it. Suddenly, it all felt real – this idea that I would be a writer, that I was always writing anyway, was suddenly made more corporeal by the idea that someone (outside friends and family who kind of have to like whatever I do anyway) actually wants to read my story.
So now I’m frantically working to get my story into presentable shape so I can send it off. Except they don’t call it a story, like I’ve been calling all my bits and pieces and fragments all these years. It’s a manuscript (or at least, it will be).
Originating from medieval Latin for “written by hand,” manuscript to me suggests a sheaf of slightly crinkled papers covered in looping cursive and a few artistically placed ink blots, gently puffing out dust motes from the garret in which their creator scribbled down her ideas in a feverish haze. It seems the kind of thing Jo March brought to her publishers, tied up with a ribbon. My typed, double-spaced, Times New Roman pages seem too clean, too modern to merit such a literary term.
And yet, the painstaking work that goes into uncovering the precise language a story demands, the hours spent getting to know the characters, the effort taken to give a scene just the right effect, the feeling of giving up part of myself when I let someone else act as a beta reader (usually Bird, who is supportive but not blindly so)…yes, this is writing of my own hand, transcribed from imagination by my rapidly tapping fingers on the keyboard. It’s the original text of my own work.
Now I just have to find a garret to hole up in until I finish.