Sometimes the best help comes from unexpected places...
...if you are open enough to let it in!
Well, here we are, almost 200 days into the writing of MJWL. What an incredible, joyful, occasionally gut wrenching adventure it has been! 200 days down, 165 to go, with plenty to do, people to see, and editors, literary agents, and publishers to impress!
I have been blessed with an ample amount of writing time the last 7 weeks, and in that interval I have made significant progress on the novel. Yeah! The book is now 24 chapters long, approximately 42,000 words, and is in the midst of major MAJOR revisions. I truly enjoy the process of editing (aka "cleaning up") the novel, as it allows me to relive the story over and over again, one chapter at a time. I also get to experience the pace and flow of the book and see where it makes sense, and where it cries out for clarification and change.
"I get by with a little help from my friends." The Beatles
Projects of this nature are rarely accomplished without the help of others, which is why the dedication section of a book is typically several pages long. In my case I have relied on a few close friends from the beginning, people that I know will always tell me what's on their mind without masking or filtering the truth. In this regard, three unanticipated, synchronistic events have helped me tremendously in the writing process. (And they can certainly expect to see their names on MY dedication page!)
(1) I am currently staying with a great friend and her three children for a few weeks before I go back to life at sea. One night a few days back, as I was writing and editing the first few chapters, I playfully asked if they would like to hear the completed Chapter 1. I was anxious to share the opening lines of my "project" and was thrilled when they all said yes! These beautiful children range in age from 8-18, (my friend is ageless!) and that night they sat silently as I recited the words that until then I had only heard with the voice in my mind. What a difference to hear them spoken! When I was done the girls asked questions and made comments about what THEY visualized when they heard my words, which helped more than they will ever know! I have subsequently shared more chapters with them, though I may save some of the "juicier" aspects of the novel for another audience.
(2) A week ago I started emailing one of my best friends the completed chapters of MJWL one at a time. In turn she shares with me which chapters are a "quick read" and she can get right into the story, as well as times when my writing is a little harder to navigate through. Having this open, honest feedback allows me to go back and review my writing for clarity, which is incredibly valuable. You see, sometimes when you are so immersed in a project you fail to see the pot holes that are right in front of you, and it's nice to have an extra set of eyes, especially when those eyes are not afraid to say "try again".
(3) I have not openly shared the novel, or this blog, widely within my work circle, preferring to keep work-work, and the novel-the novel. I did, however, share the blog with one wonderful, intelligent, thoughtful peer. Well, speaking of synchronistic events, he just happened to know a literary agent and had faith enough in my writing to introduce us. While I have only recently sent her chapters from the book and a query letter (more on query letters next post), and I am not even sure if MJWL is in the right genre for them, I am eternally grateful to have the ear of a real literary professional, as well as for my friend's faith in me.
These three editing strategies were not part of my initial writing plan, however, I am incredibly blessed that they have allowed me to have their opinions woven into the process. So a warm, heartfelt thank you to the friends who have been there for me through it all. You know who you are. :)
And now, back to our story...
After carefully selecting the seeds that would round out her project, Rachel paid for her bounty and headed out the door for her trek up the mountain. Although still very excited about her venture she was no longer lost in thoughts about soil depth and nutrient restoration. Instead her mind continued to playfully recreate the brief conversation with the handsome Feed Store stranger. “Leo Ciotte.” She mused. “What a doll.”
She heard the first rumbling less than mile into the journey home, and looking up she saw the black clouds that had been shrewdly hiding beyond the tree line. She hastened her stride but it was too late. A vicious, lighting filled rainstorm was on top of her just as she turned the corner on the steepest part of the walk.
It was a deluge, the clouds unleashing their bounty in malevolent unison. Rain began to pour on her from every angle, soaking her school uniform down to her undergarments and quickly muddying the gravel path she was desperately trying to keep her footing on. She protectively covered her paper enclosed seeds and blindly inched forward, praying for a reprieve from the unrelenting assault. Just as she was losing hope that she could keep her parcels intact she received the amnesty she was looking for.
She heard the motor car before she saw it. Laboring up the hill with a load of white bags of grain was an old farm truck, its wheels digging into the gravel and seemingly winning the battle to conquer the incline. The truck stopped ahead of her where the hill leveled off, and the driver stepped out just as she was about to pass.
She squinted through the stinging rain drops and dropped her seeds on the rocks below her. There, standing before her, was Leo Ciotte.
It was only day one for Rachel and her Leo, but at first sight, first touch, first encounter, they knew there was more in the air for them than a vicious rainstorm. For you see, rainstorms pass, but true love is eternal if you simply...
Believe in forever.