May 282012

i’m in the final stages of the editing process for my debut novella, murder in mumbai. it is surreal, awkward, even. the words are mine, i know, as is the story. but there’s a distance, an awkward distance. it feels a little like meeting a long-unseen close childhood friend. there is a shared past; happy memories. but something incredibly tentative.
let me explain.
i began writing the story one summer after it came to me during a walk with my wife in berkeley. and when i say the story came to me, i mean the rudimentary elements of a plot about a murdered american in bombay. nothing more.
i set myself a task of writing about a thousand words a day. and in these thousand words, the story took shape, characters were born (some discarded), plots conjured, twists contorted. i was shaping the plot every day, and on days i didn’t write, i thought of ways to propel it forward.
eventually, after months of exhilaration and frustration, i finished. or at least i thought i did. i eagerly sent out the manuscript to agents, and the man i signed with, josh getzler, had suggestions — plenty of them, and they were good ones. so the book that had gone from being my creation, tweaked with inputs from my wife, was now being reshaped by additional, and very important, suggestions from josh. not all the changes were easy.
remember, i was close to this story, and i saw it in a way that no one else could. but being an editor in my other life helped. i took a step back and brought out the hacksaw (i jest, but you get the picture).
once the book found a home, the editors at dutton had their own suggestions. back i went to the book, reading and rereading, shaping and reshaping. to be honest, by the end of it — though the story hews very closely to the one i wrote — i’d be lying if i said i could read “murder in mumbai” the way a reader would. in my opinion, this is my greatest challenge as a writer — being able to read my own work the way i would the works of others. i know every line. and each time i read it, i face the awkward questions: is this any good? can this be improved?
of course, as an editor i know everything can be improved — all the time; forever. but i also know it’s time to let go.
and how am i doing with that? it’s a work in progress.

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