I don't think people really appreciate how much labor goes into editing the books they read. What makes good writing is how easily you digest it and how well it communicates its intended meaning. Passive voice is evil. Fancy words are to be used sparingly. Things that people do in colloquial speech have to be transformed into proper English. Many books go through several editors and rewrites. Salamander and the Unscarred Mind is one such book. I have a lot of personal projects on my hard drive, and none of them have reached this level of polish. I'm doing this because I believe in it! I've hired two editors to read the entire work, and asked two other friends to help me spot check particular chapters. I've been blessed with the help of knowledgeable people. I'll share a picture from my list of things to do, at the top of which is my progress bar for editing the chapters of this book before I'll resume querying agents with it:
So that's where I'm at.
It seems that my drive to solve all my problems goes into over gear right about the time I’m supposed to be sleeping.
Now that I’ve finally slept some, let me tell you what I’m talking about.
I really need for my art to be shared to a wider audience than it currently is. Much wider. So I’m looking at my current situation and wondering several things:
1.) My art might not be good enough. I might not have the necessary skills. The weaknesses in my art have been pointed out numerous times. I’ve tried to grow and change over the years, but I fear that working freelance instead of with a company of likeminded artists may have caused my bad habits to get set in concrete. I’d like to grow and develop more. I need to be working side-by-side with superior artists to achieve this.
2.) Publishers want to know how you’re going to make the book sell. As an art teacher by day and an illustrator by night, I have not accrued the audience necessary to propel my work to the moon like I want. I know a few people that would be interested in my work, but working as a concept artist for movies/video games would give me a much wider audience of people. Los Angeles is right next door to me, where so many studios are. The ugly truth is that I have a brilliant manuscript that’s lavishly illustrated, and no one cares at all except for my closest circle of coworkers, friends, and family. While I am eternally thankful for their help and encouragement, I need a biiiiiiiiiiig audience to get where I’m going. Salamander and the Unscarred Mind has been queried to countless agents now, without success.
One of my coworkers where I teach saw my art and said, “Well what the hell are you doing here?” I gotta be honest, that burned a little.
I love my job where I teach, and I love the lifestyle it has afforded me. My independence and comfort in my home is the greatest. But I feel shame for not having done more with my art, and I know it’d be wasteful to plateau my art career here forever. It’s a strange feeling to have the best job that I’ve ever had, and at the same time feel an intense obligation and responsibility to become something far greater.
Understand that some number of months ago I felt like I was dying in a nasty trip to the ER. I was rescued by an amazing coworker and her husband who took me there when I texted them. The whole time I was thinking, “Not yet. I have things I need to do.” And afterward, all I could do was fear that I’d never get those things done before dying. It’s hard to look Death in the face, survive, and then come home to look at my half-finished projects. I’m not okay with that feeling.
To quote my awesome sister: “Okay, I get it. You can make art. Now what?”
I’ve illustrated most of the best scenes in Salamander and the Unscarred Mind. I have made 38 illustrations for this 68,000 word novel. It’s becoming difficult to select more scenes to illustrate. I’ve decided to be married to this book until I see it thrive and succeed the way it deserves. The rejection letters keep coming in. I am faced with some hard questions about how I’ve decided to do things.