Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Perfect Time to Panic

by Stephanie Black

One of the greatest bits of dialogue in the movie “Toy Story” comes when Woody and Buzz end up stranded at a gas station, with no idea how they’re going to find their beloved owner, Andy, again. Woody starts freaking out and Buzz, with maddening calm, says, “Sheriff, this is no time to panic.” To which Woody fires back, “This is the perfect time to panic," and goes on to detail the crisis they are facing. That line has always cracked me up. The perfect time to panic. If panic is not warranted now, then when? I’m sort of a panicky personality, prone to shrieking if something startles or alarms me. This attribute will not come in handy next fall when it’s time to teach my teenage daughter to drive.

This morning, it felt like the perfect time to panic, because I just e-mailed my new manuscript to my editor. I’ve calmed down now. But it took me a while to stop shaking.

So whence the case of the weak knees? I’ve been working like crazy for the past year and a half to write the book, with, naturally, the goal of submitting it. I was planning to submit it in April—and I did it! I reached a goal! Wow! What’s next? Matched socks? Dinner on time? Let’s not get extreme here.

But submitting a manuscript is both thrilling and terrifying. Thrilling because you’ve finished the book into which you've poured your time and sweat and heart and soul and you’re sending your dream winging off to a publisher. Terrifying because you’ve finished the book into which you've poured your time and sweat and heart and soul and you’re sending your dream winging off to a publisher.

Up until the point that you submit the manuscript, you’re free to imagine whatever scenarios you want. The publisher will love it! They’ll snatch it up in record time! The first print run will sell out in a day! You’ll have so many fan letters that your e-mail server will crash! Your publisher will call you up, begging you to please, please write another book as quickly as you can because the world needs your unique and unparalleled genius. People will send you chocolates!

But once you submit the book, you’ve applied for a reality check. And so the panic begins.

Will the publisher like the book? If they like it, will they think there’s enough of a market for it to make it profitable? Should I really have included that scene where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir pops out of the wheat field singing “Let Us All Press On” and swoops the hero off to safety? Should I really have made the villain see the error of his ways, join the church and get called as a Sunbeam teacher? Will Rob Wells figure out that the villain’s twenty-eight year old warrior/blogger sidekick is patterned on him? Will Rob sue me?

Just kidding. For anyone who read my first book and is interested in the sequel, I promise, I didn’t do any of the above. The only thing I’m second-guessing myself about at the moment is whether or not I included enough recap of the first book. I originally had more of it, but a couple of my test readers found it info-dumpy and distracting (“Hey! You’re reading a sequel!”), so I trimmed it. I hope I didn’t trim it too much.

The first time I submitted a manuscript, it was much more of a production. This was a snail-mail submission, so I printed out the manuscript and put it carefully in a pristine cardboard manuscript box. I checked and rechecked to make sure I’d included all the correct materials (cover letter, summary, SASE). My daughters made a poster to put in the back window of the car. I can’t remember what it said, but it was something celebrating my achievement. When I gave the box to the clerk at the post office and she asked if I wanted to send it book rate, I turned red. Did she sense that there was a wanna-be book in that package? And I bought cheesecake to celebrate.

This time, it was much more low-key. All I had to do was hit "send" and then go around shrieking to my daughters that I actually submitted the manuscript. “That’s great, Mom,” my teenager would mumble, her eyes glued to a “MacGyver” re-run. And I don’t have any cheesecake at the moment, but I do have that Reese’s peanut butter egg that I hid on Sunday and then couldn’t remember where it was. My daughter found it today. Next time I hide Easter candy, I ought to make a cheat sheet reminding me where the good stuff is.

So the manuscript in in my editor's hands. Now begins the waiting . . .

And by the way, Rob, don’t bother to sue me. The IRS has all our money.


At 4/19/2006 5:08 PM, Blogger Sweebler said...

I can't wait until it's published! I'm sure your editor will love it.

At 4/19/2006 5:43 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

I have this vision of the MoTab, in a wheat field, singing and swaying. Too funny.

I usually don't read "semi-futuristic thrillers" but I must say that The Believer was really hard to put down.

I can't wait for The Believer 2: The Wrath of Zero (as Rob Wells might say).

At 4/19/2006 6:10 PM, Blogger ChrisWoznitza said...

Hi ich bin Chriswab aus Bottrop !! Viele Grüsse !!

At 4/19/2006 6:28 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Was beduetet Grusse? Ich verstehe das nicht.

At 4/19/2006 11:52 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Never mind, I looked it up. Grusse is greetings.

At 4/20/2006 7:39 AM, Blogger C.L. Hanson said...

As long as the story is enjoyable as is and not too confusing, you might as well keep the recap of the previous novel to a minimum.

Even if knowing that X happened in book 1 might give readers some extra insight on why Y happened in book 2, it's a little like real life that way in that you don't always have all of the background to explain why people do what they do. Plus it's more fun to go back and read the first book if you don't already know everything that happens in it.

Congrats on getting your latest book finished!!! Your imaginary book sounds like it would be a pretty entertaining one too. ;^)

At 4/20/2006 10:47 AM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Thank you! I feel better now. It's hard for me to judge whether the story would be confusing for someone who hasn't read the first book because I know the first book so well. But my test reader felt like the needed facts came out clearly enough thoughout the book that the initial bits of recap weren't necessary.

Good point about it being like real life!


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