I did it.
And I'm still around to talk about it. Not only that, but the backstory that started this whole writing adventure is finally woven into the story, like harmony to the melody.
The backstory of Hannah's sister, Sally, is what prompted me to write Near Mrs. A little aside: I lost my sister when she was 19 and I was 22. Every time someone went through a similar experience, I would end up writing them a letter to go along with the sympathy card. You don't live through something like that and not come out of it with a little experience and some pearls of wisdom after a lot of soul-searching. And then it occurred to me. If I could write a story about a character with the same experience, I could share what I learned with people I'd never even met and maybe give them some comfort.
And so it began. The story had to get out, but I didn't want it to be preachy, so I intentionally kept it from being the main plot. So I came up with a plot and a character that could carry the story and backstory. When I was finally done with the first draft, I realized that I had left out most of the backstory, being so caught up in the plot itself. But that's what drafts are for, right? So I went back and edited. And re-edited. And added and added until the two stories fit together.
I spent the past two weeks weaving the pieces together, and then last night I made all of the edits I wanted to include from my critique-group friends. Translated, that means I fixed all the typos and grammar errors they found, in addition to incorporating some of their brilliant ideas about the plot, characters and themes. It's amazing how you can read the same sentence so many times and never realize you wrote "form" instead of "from." There is nothing that can substitute for a fresh set of eyes that are not your own to point out all the flaws you're become blind to.
And then I found a blog that burst my happy little bubble. The advice is sound. Print out your entire MS and read it - out loud - before you even consider submitting it. As much as I wanted to crack open a bottle of champagne and join Hannah and Olivia in a few mimosas, I'll have to hold off just a little bit longer. The good news is, I know that I've added all of the scenes and moments that have been rattling around in my head recently, begging to be considered.
The bad news is, I know myself. I obsess over editing my own work. I read an email half a dozen times before I send it to make sure the words on the page are the ones I want. I'm not an easy woman to satisfy (just ask my darling husband), and I know that once I start reading out loud, I'm going to mark up those pristine pages with bright red ink and send myself back to the computer for hours of revising.
As you can imagine, Hannah's back story with Sally is very sad. I worry that I may have made the story too dark, and I'm reluctant to face that fact, knowing that what I put in was authentic. While the main plot is very dramatized, the backstory is quite autobiographical. I relived my own demons to get those words on the page, and Sally's part of the story wouldn't be complete without them. But I learned from modeling Hannah, Olivia, Marc and Garrett after real people. The raw material is nothing like what you're left with after you flesh out the details.
Marc may have been modeled after my ex-husband, but he's got characteristics of friends and ex-boyfriends thrown in, and he's totally dramatized to make his character fit the story. What's left of my ex-husband, now that I'm done, are some idiosyncrasies and a few great choice words from a few of the fights we had. Marc is now his own person, with his own personality. Hannah started as me, then became part me, part my other sister, and part made up. Olivia started as that other sister, then became her own savvy, snarky self. Garrett is the closest to his origin. I'm lucky. I come home every night to my own sweet Garrett who has supported me through every phase of this crazy ride.
I love this motley crew, and I owe it to them to do this final review (with all associated edits), before shipping them off to a stranger to be analyzed, and possibly (even probably) rejected after nothing more than a peek at my query letter. But I'm staying positive. My plan is to dive into query-land convinced that I have the next best women's fiction piece to hit the market. If I believe it, maybe an agent and editor will, too.
I know I've deviated from my blog's stated intention with this post, but after re-reading earlier blog entries, I decided that while my views on different topics may help my fellow writers, they're nothing like being inside the head of a writer who's reached a milestone.
Do you have a preference for type? Let me know which it is and why.
Next up: Are You Ready to Blog? I'm positive you are and I'll tell you why.