Reality Check

Earlier this year—much earlier—I was working like mad to finish the first draft of a sci-fi novel for teens. I even posted about it on social media! It was the longest thing I’d ever written, and I was terribly excited about finally getting it done and pulling all the story threads together. And when it was finished, of course I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread!

Then I waited and waited to hear back from my agent. And finally she told me something that confirmed the irritating little doubt that was hiding deep in the back of my mind. You know—the one I had to bury in order to finish the book. So when that doubt rose up again in all its gory truth, I heaved a sigh, told my agent she was right, and got going on revisions. 

That is, I blew up the first draft and started over.

And while I was beginning anew, realizing how much I had to do and how little of my original story I could keep, I thought a lot about the words reality check. A reality check was what I’d just had, all right. But I didn’t like the implication behind the term: the idea that living in a fantasy world is a bad thing.

Because it seems to me that when you write, that fantasy world—where your work is perfect and your concept of what you’re writing is the only way it could possibly be—is an absolute necessity. If you didn’t live in that dream, you wouldn’t be able to write. 

So the fantasy isn’t a mistake, or something you did wrong. It’s a necessary first step. You can’t get to the reality without it.

Now as I work on my next draft, I’m in another fantasy world. I don’t want to think about the next reality check. I know it’s coming. But when it comes, I hope it brings me one step closer to the finished product—a real book. 

Because isn’t a book the place where dreams and reality meet?

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