Because I believe so strongly in my third novel, The Floater, and want to see it take off once it’s finally launched, I did something different this time around—I invited four people whose opinions I trust to read a proof copy and give me feedback on the story itself. By now—nearly a year after the launch of my first novel, Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz, I trust that my writing is respectable (if not brilliant). But I’ve come a long way since releasing LWM; two novels later, I have a much better appreciation of just how tricky it is to craft and weave an engaging and vibrant work of fiction. Lacking any formal training or background in that sort of thing, I wanted to dip a toe in the water, so to speak, before taking my third plunge.

I got comments from one of my four victims last Wednesday. We met for lunch at Metro Montclair in Oakland. I felt as though I had shown up for the first parent-teacher conference of a new school year when he told me that, although my angel does shine (proud mama smile), she also has a few flaws we needed to discuss (smile quickly fades). Seriously? I’d already let my trusted best friend read an early manuscript. I then subjected myself to “slash and burn” editing by another friend and fellow writer (see “More on the Editing Process: The Thin Line Between Taking it on the Chin vs. Up the You-Know-What” posted on April 21). All I’d wanted was a reality check as to whether my story sucked, not a chapter-by-chapter underscoring of every spot where seams might be loose or frayed due to poor design or excess flab. Moments away from launching, I get this?

I furiously scribbled notes between spoiled bites of otherwise delicious seared sea scallops accompanied by fava beans, "sea beans" (sorry Metro, they looked and tasted like yellow green beans to me), and salad with champagne vinaigrette (on the side, naturally). It was quite a satisfying repast, even if, along with the food, I swallowed a complimentary order of bitter pills brought to the table by special request.

But you know something? I already knew these weak spots existed; they had gnawed at me from early on. And yet, I’d let them slide, opting to live with less-than-perfect work because I couldn’t figure out how to rectify them. Once we got to really talking about this handful of shortcomings (passing on dessert menus, thank you), some inspiring insights came to me as to how I might correct these deficiencies. And they're rather simple fixes, really. Now I can’t wait to snap on those rubber gloves and get back to polishing.

I’ll be curious what my other test readers have to say. Hopefully, I won’t go through this drill three more times! But rest assured, if I get further important feedback, I will do the necessary work to incorporate it. Unlike pregnancy, in the world of self-publishing, there's no such thing as “overdue.” But when birthing novels, there sure is such a thing as “premature.” I can feel The Floater kicking in my gut, so I know I must be in the early stages of labor. And while the last push is always hardest, when this thing comes out, I promise you’re gonna love her!