Last week I gathered up and organized manuscript pages from two different drafts of the book I mean to publish this year, putting them once again into numerical order and placing them, feeling fulfilled, in a neat stack on my humble writing desk.
I am done with my book. And this organizing was a sign to my husband and to myself that I will no longer let my work litter the floor of our room and, more importantly, that I consider this story finished, as far as writing is concerned.
The desk at which I write and have worked for more than two months revising my story since we moved here is one my husband had before we were married 17 plus years ago and one that had its surface attacked by silver sharpie, wielded by the hands of our firstborn when he was little. Its knobs fall off occasionally, and its varnish is worn away on the edges.
But small and humble though it may be, it sits before two large windows with two more windows on its right hand side. I have always wanted a desk with a view, and now I have it in our Albuquerque home, looking out over trees and flowers and bright blue southwestern sky each morning, dreaming and writing.
Those windows caused my manuscript to wander away a few pages at a time from their piles on the floor by my writing space; I often pushed the panes open to let in the breeze. If I wasn't working from the pages that floated like miniature magic carpets stitched with words, I didn't mind that they seemed intent on leaving me for more exotic places. Yet for weeks now it has been a huge mess, a reminder that work was ongoing, like some huge remodeling project: Pardon our Dust!
But now I am done. And I wept tears of joy over my laptop. I'm satisfied. I have completed it. It's finished.
My heart is in this story and has been since I first wrote a much shorter version of it for my high school creative writing class.
I wasn't the star student of that class. For one thing the teacher, a charismatic woman with long, wavy blond hair and a younger husband, often couldn't read my writing, even noting on one of my assignments, I bet this would be a pretty good story if I could read it. I also struggled with dialogue and devising interesting plot lines. But when I wrote this short story based on something that happened to my family when I was a kid growing up in Tennessee, the whole class applauded it and gave me wonderful encouragement and feedback. Our "cool" teacher had that look on her face and tone in her voice that every creative person wishes to see and hear. My story had touched her.
So I began writing the whole story, and from the beginning my dad and my writing mentor, author of the The Dragon at the End of Forever series, supported and encouraged me.
Wow, what a long road to fulfillment. Over the years I have written many drafts of this novella, trying to improve it. I didn't always succeed, for at least in one draft, I managed to completely destroy the tone of my tale while trying to satisfy my critics. Early on, I sent off copies to publishers and received form letter rejections and personal rejections that addressed me by name in typed or handwritten particular notes of encouragement. I saved those.
I sent this manuscript to my future husband before we met in person, and he thought it was a great story, and from then on he believed that I was a writer, believed in my dreams. (And still does, though I have yet to bring in loads of money from my efforts.)
I've also, as I alluded to above, shared this beloved story of mine with a couple people who did not like it at all. Even though it broke my heart, I did find nuggets of wisdom in their feedback, and I hope I have used those experiences to mold my novella into something greater.
A couple of years ago I read one of my earliest manuscripts - I went back to the beginning, one might say - to my children, and as they listened intently they revived long dormant hopes and plans. Still, I wondered aloud as I read my own words, "How was I a better writer then than I am now?"
After my recent painstaking efforts, I know that is not true. I have grown as a writer, and I know my story reflects that metamorphosis.
Now I will put it out there for everyone. And it's a terrifying thing to let go of something held so dear, the genesis and realization of a dream, at last. I could edit for years, tinkering endlessly with little words, and make excuses for not showing my heart, my work, to the world, but I have been guilty of telling my husband, "If I die young, please make sure my book is published. Have my dad edit it, but make sure it's published." So I know what I must do.
And I'm doing it.