I’ve been carrying around the manuscript of my first novel for about two months, from Baton Rouge, to the farm, to Baton Rouge, back to the farm. At least a half dozen round trips.

According to Google, I needed six to seven hours to read the 100,310 words of my novel top to bottom, so for a couple of months, I dragged the manuscript with me everywhere, waiting for those six to seven hours to magically announce themselves, “We’re here!”

Of course, time is what you make of it, not magic. I mean, c’mon, how many times have I answered the “Do you have time…?” question with “No, but I’ll make time”?

Yesterday, I made the time because I began to feel like a middle-aged woman with a stuffed animal on a leash, a poser, pretending to walk a pet.

I knew I was stalling, because this last step is scary.

  • What if it’s garbage?
  • What if I hate it?

Scarier still is that it’s time to let out that part of me I keep locked up for most of writing: Edith the Editor.

Reading the Manuscript

A couple of things.

  • Google lies. I knew it, but this one was huge. Google said I (an average-speed reader) needed six to seven hours (seven on the generous side). Fast readers, five hours, slow eight to fourteen. Edith and I read at a fair clip yesterday and in eight hours, we only made it to page 172 of 336 pages. Half way! The good news is I know how much time to set aside for pages 173–336.
  • Edith likes. This is even better news. Edith had the pleasure of teasing out a couple of mistakes and awkward turns of phrases, but she mostly enjoyed herself. She was pleased, very pleased.

I’ll set aside another eight hours this weekend (so much for those house chores) for Edith and me to finish our readthrough. It was more fun than I expected, less dreadful than I dreaded.

And next week, we’ll wake up Bets, the business manager, to begin the painful part of this book process: queries.

Don’t quote me on this (because Google lies), but did you know that, despite declines in recent years, there are almost 2000 literary publishers in the United States? And then there are over a thousand literary agencies (with several agents in each). Bets and I have our work cut out for us. But it’s time.

Your Words

Have you ever returned to your words? Your words in a journal or diary, or your words in a blog post, poem, or novel? Joan Didion is often quoted about returning to her words and discovering, “I’ve already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.”

As Edith and I read yesterday, I experienced several “did I write that?” moments. Part of it is didionesque: we’re constantly moving away from where and who we are and we lose touch. But a bigger part, for me anyway, is discovering that when I write, especially when I’m in the flow and writing from the heart, I never write alone. That’s the magic and grace I live (and write) for.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023