“Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. Write with your tongue on fire.”
It’s pretty safe to say that I love words. After all, I surround myself with them every day. I string them together into sentences, into paragraphs, into scenes, into chapters, into novels. I use them to explore, and to ponder, and to think. I use them to tell stories and weave tales. I’m the kind of person who will sit at her computer forever, trying to find exactly the right word, rather than substituting another one that doesn’t flow as well. I’m the kind of person who strives to paint a picture with prose. So you’d think this post, one about finishing my first draft yesterday, would be easy to write.
But you’d be wrong. Because, truly, I don’t think there are words to describe what it felt like, what it still feels like. I knew this day was coming. I thought I was prepared for it. I had my last five chapters planned very carefully. I had sunny yellow highlights splashed across my journal, reminding me which passages I still had to include in the manuscript. I had a very clear vision of exactly where my characters would end up. And they did end up there. They ended up in places I never could have imagined when I first set out to tell their story nearly two years ago, and in the process they’ve taught me things I never could have imagined. So it’s hard to even wrap my mind around the fact that I won’t be writing about them anymore, let alone articulate those thoughts coherently. Yesterday was bittersweet. It was emotional. It was surreal. It was filled with joy, with love, with sadness, with longing, with pride, with enchantment, with despair … and, most of all, with inspiration. I’m going to borrow my MC’s thoughts to explain:
But words don’t come, not for me or for her. There can be truth in silence, though. There can be beauty in the sentiment that remains unspoken, because life’s most precious treasures go beyond description. They must simply be felt in the soul.
I feel this story in my soul. From the day I first thought of the concept for the first book until the day I wrote the last word of the last book, it has been a work of heart unlike anything I have ever experienced. It has helped me grow, both as a writer and as a person. It has stretched me, pushed me, taught me, healed me, and inspired me. If someone had told me two years ago that my question of “what would happen if a woman found out she was both pregnant and adopted on the same day?” would blossom into three novels and a group of characters who’d become like a second family … well, I’d never have believed it. I’d written manuscripts before, I’d fallen in love with characters, but I couldn’t have understood what this experience would be like until I actually lived it. I’ve talked a lot about how Sofie and her family helped me through such a difficult time. I’ve talked a lot about how proud I am of them, how thrilling it was to watch them spread their wings and fly. And so, instead of using words to describe how it feels to have finished taking this journey with them, I’ll use numbers.
1 set of characters who I consider myself so blessed to have as friends.
And now, so many tears at the thought of having to let them go.
I wish I could somehow thank them for all the joy they’ve given me. I wish I could tell them they’ve left a handprint on my heart. I wish I could explain how they’ve enriched my life and helped my spirit soar. Their story has been a honor to tell, this manuscript in particular has been my favorite to write, and no matter what happens next, Sofie and her family will have my everlasting gratitude for changing my world for the better and for good.
I think it really hit home as I started to write the epilogue yesterday morning. I’ve never included one in any of my manuscripts before, but it felt fitting this time. After sharing this journey with my characters for so long, I wanted to show a glimpse into their future. I wanted to show this moment in time that takes place fourteen years after the book ends. I wanted to show how Sofie’s dream-come-true only continues to flourish. But I don’t think I was prepared for how bizarre it would feel to see my book-babies all grown up. I can’t claim to understand what it’s like for parents to watch their children mature, though in ways, I do think I was able to experience it through Sofie and her family. Writing this epilogue was so bittersweet because of it. At first, it felt so final. But then I took to heart something Sofie said:
Even though the beginning seems so long ago sometimes, there’s no end in sight. There are more paths to blaze, more opportunities to find, more memories to make. This journey of ours will continue to unfold.
I may not have the pleasure of writing about these characters anymore, but they will always be a part of me. They’ll always be one of the best parts of me. It occurs to me now that serendipity must have been shining when I had an “aha!” moment about the title of this book. MINE TO LOVE is about Sofie’s devotion to her family, but it also perfectly describes my devotion to these characters and their story. No matter what happens with these manuscripts, no matter if or when an agent connects with them like I have, they have already given me the greatest gift. I know that for a fact. Proof? It’s been less than twenty-four hours since I finished the draft, and I’m already yearning to jump into edits. I’m going to force myself to take a break for the rest of June (well, I’m going to try to, anyway, we’ll see how long that lasts), and then I literally cannot wait to tighten up this novel and finish it for good. The plan has always been to query the first of the three books until I could query it no more – and as of now, that’s still the plan – but we’ll see what happens after this one is polished. More than any other, this is the one that stretched me. It tackles things I never before would have considered writing about, and though it was brutal to put my characters through the grief of losing someone they loved, it was unbelievably strengthening to see them learn to heal and hope again. It was beautiful to see them make choices that define everything they believe in. It was an affirmation of why I write, why I’ll never not write, why this will forever be my passion.
For now, I’m going to give myself a little vacation. I’m going to do all the things I’ve pushed aside while tying together the draft. I’m going to read, I’m going to watch tv, I’m going to try Starbucks’ new Cookie Crumble Frap, I’m going to drive around to every Rita’s nearby until I find one that has Red Velvet water ice, I’m going to spend a couple days at the beach next week, and I’m going to take the time I need to feel all the emotions stirring in my heart. Then I’m going to jump back in and visit my babies again.
And today, tomorrow, always, I will be so very grateful that they’re mine to love.