Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Knowing When to DIY, and When to Call the Pros

IMG_5849 Saturday, I was fussing at a garden hose before finally asking my husband to reconnect the hose to the spigot. He found a wrench. “With this,” he explained, you’re stronger than the strongest man in the world.” It wasn’t a task I needed to hand off, after all.

Also on Saturday (busy day), our son pointed out that the upstairs hall’s light fixture was full of dirty water. Oh, and that there was a big brown spot on the ceiling. This is never a good thing.

My husband braved the attic (and whew, is it HOT in the South in August), and discovered the drip pan thingy for the furnace/A/C had overflowed. He soaked up the tray’s water with old towels. He poured bleach into the pipes to clear them. Then he emptied the light fixture.

But then---the downstairs A/C suddenly wasn’t working. Did I mention the August heat in the South?

It was time to call in the big guns. Yesterday we had an air conditioning repairman come out. He stepped right into his heroic role of restoring cool air to our family.

Yesterday I also emailed a draft to my agent. My September 1 deadline is fast approaching for Memphis BBQ series book 1. I’ve fiddled and fiddled and fiddled with the draft. I’ve added scenes, removed scenes, rewritten characters, and changed the ending. I changed the murderer and then changed it back.

It was a task that I could handle myself at first. And I already had the tools. But then it became like the leaky drip pan. I needed to call in a pro. I’d done all I could on my end, but it needed to go one step farther.

I realized it had gotten to the point where I needed another set of eyes. I needed someone who was going to tell me straight-up and in short order what I should consider changing….before my Berkley editor gets it. My agent, who has a vested interest in my writing career, was the perfect recipient.

Signs it’s time to hand over our project to another reader:

  • You’ve read the entire draft beginning to end ten times, but now discover typos that you’ve overlooked every other time.
  • You’re at deadline at you suddenly consider a major overhaul on one big section of your book (that may actually be fine without it, but you’ve lost perspective.)
  • You’re so familiar with your own characters (since they’re living in your head) that you can’t tell whether they’ve been introduced or described well to your reader (who doesn’t yet have them in his head.)
  • You have several different beginning and ending scenarios and can’t decide between them.

I think handing off a project too early isn’t good---like the garden hose, it’s something we can handle ourselves. Too many different opinions can do serious damage to a work in progress. I don’t like people reading my unfinished drafts.

But there comes a point where the draft is completed and we’ve struggled through it enough. That’s the time when it’s a relief to discover what a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective can do for us.