“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”
I’d planned to write this post on Saturday, but it was impossible. And then again yesterday. Impossible. To be honest, it feels that way today, too, like words shouldn’t be dedicated to anything – to anyone – other than the horror of Friday and all the innocent people affected by the tragedy. It is heartbreaking. Gut-wrenching. Unimaginable. Like so many others, my thoughts and prayers have continuously been with those in Newtown. But when I look at the pictures of those sweet children and the courageous teachers who tried so valiantly to protect them, I see more than victims. I see the vibrancy they exuded, the zest for life that sparkled in their eyes and emanated from their souls. And I think there’s a reminder there, for all of us: to not only treasure the people we hold near and dear, but to live our lives at full throttle. To soak up every moment. To make time for who matters. To make time for what matters. To wish on stars and then do everything in our power to lasso them down to earth. To never take even a single day for granted. To dream and to do. It’s not enough, nothing will ever be enough, but maybe we can honor their memory by making beautiful memories of our own. And then … there is sometimes the need for an escape. For me, that escape has always been writing, and so I’m doing this post today not because I want to, but because, in ways, I feel like I have to …
Those of you who have seen my Twitter and Facebook feeds over the weekend know that I finished up edits on Mine to Love on Saturday. It was a surreal feeling. A bittersweet one. An emotional one. But mostly, joyous. And filled with love, so much love. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I sat down to write Reflections of Me. Since that sunny summer morning in August 2010, I have written three novels about my book-babies. I’ve watched their journey shift. I’ve watched their story unfold. I’ve watched their lives grow. I’ve watched them grow. It has been an honor and a joy. To me, Sofie, Brandon, and Ellie have become more than characters on a page. They’ve become my friends and my family. They’ve taught me things. They’ve helped me grow. And, as I’ve written about before, they’ve helped me heal. So to finish working on their story now … it’s tough. I’m not ready to let them go yet. In ways, though, I don’t have to, because they will always be a part of me. Their story will always have a spot in my heart. And this story, this book, it will always resonate a little stronger. It is very rare for me to be proud of anything I do, but I am proud of this book, and I believe in it, even more so now than when I finished the first draft back in June. Because, in this case, less really is more.
First draft: 159,329 words / 469 pages
Second draft: 124,290 words / 374 pages (-35,039 words / 95 pages)
Third draft: 107,971 words / 330 pages (-51,358 words / 139 pages)
My goal had been to trim this manuscript to 110,000 words. As you can see, it’s more than two-thousand below that. BELOW. That never happens with my books. Ever. I hope it’s a good sign for things to come. I hope this is the one that strikes a chord with an agent. I hope my characters will have a chance to live outside my heart. I hope people will love them. I hope. I hope.
To know I won’t be writing any more novels about these book-babies of mine, it hurts. But to know that I get to send them out into the world soon, to cross my fingers that their story resonates with someone else as it’s done with me, that inspires. This has been my favorite manuscript to write and I cannot wait to continue its journey. First, a couple weeks off to breathe and relax after what has been an emotional writing and revising experience. Then, I am already looking forward to jumping back in with both feet.
Anyone who’s been following along on Facebook knows that I’ve been posting daily excerpts. This final one, the first sentence of the epilogue, struck me as fitting: “I’ve always believed that the human mind is like a camera.” Because these characters and their journey have helped me develop, helped me focus, helped me capture so many things … helped me grow. Sofie, Ellie, Brandon: thank you. Thank you for being my escape. Thank you for being a catharsis. Thank you for being the place I can go to in my head – over the past few days and also over the past few years. Thank you for bringing me joy. Thank you for changing my life for good.