Thursday, November 01, 2007

The First Goodbye

By Lynne

I received my editorial letter and suggested edits for my novel last week. My outstanding editor offered spot on suggestions, ones so in sync with my characters and the goals of my novel that you would've thought my characters were real people and she and I were chatting about the locals over coffee. I clicked open my document ready to make changes.

Reading the first sentence of my novel, a sentence that hasn't changed since the first time I sat down to listen to what my characters had to say, I froze. The realization that this would be one of the last times I would spend time in the seaside town I'd created, it's sunlit harbor filled with one mother's secret, the local park hiding a family's truth, I actually got teary.

I've spent over two years discovering my story, massaging it and sorting through the details to include and details to leave out. I've taken one unlikable character and revealed her humanity on the page so that she can finally be understood. I explored the truth, mine and my characters, tucking it in with the care of a mother laying her child down for a nap.

To write the best book I could, I spent dark cold mornings on my window seat typing out a scene before work. I stole weekend time from beach outings or picnics in favor of spending time in a fictional grief counselor's office or a lost child's bedroom.

And now begins the time to say goodbye.

While my sadness centers around the knowledge that there are only a few more times I can touch it, effecting any change, the wonderful news is that because I'm willing to let it go, my story will live forever in the form of a hardbound book.

With each final edit, copy edit and galley proof, there will be less and less I can add or change. Each pass through now means trusting all the revisions I've made to date and embracing the idea that while no story is ever really finished, at some point it will exist in an imperfect state.

I only know one way to grieve the end of writing a treasured story, and that's to allow the feelings to come. Like leaving a child at school, it's hard at first to let go of her hand, but let go you must. And it does get easier with each passing day.

Letting it go and moving on for me comes in the form of a new story. One that has the power to comfort me and pull me in to a new world. My work-in-progress consoles me. My new characters distract me with their stories. I am a writer and I must pay attention to the next story begging to be told.

6 comments:

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Only another writer really understands this sense of goodbye, of loss. I always get teary when I know I've written the last chapter, last page, last sentence. I've traveled with these characters and now we're at the end of a long journey.

But here's the cool news I've discovered . . . just like college-age kids at Thanksgiving, your characters will come back to you once the book is out. Your readers will bring them back to visit, a little changed because they've been out in the world without you, but they'll be home, at least for a little while.

The Writers' Group said...

Beautiful, Lynne! Never fear; these characters are very real and will be around for a long, long time, in your life and in the lives of everyone who meets them on the page.

Hannah

Maprilynne said...

Wow. I never thought of it that way. Thanks.:)

Larramie said...

As Judy and Hannah commented your characters will return to you, Lynne, through the readers' perspective. And, more than likely, you'll even view them a bit differently after their time out in the world. To consider that...how exciting!

The Writers' Group said...

Judy,
You just started your goodbye with your latest novel, yes? It's nice to know that saying goodbye to the manuscript doesn't mean you can't visit from time to time.

Thanks Hannah and Maprilynne--glad you liked my post.

Larramie,
It is so exciting to know readers will see things in the characters that perhaps I don't see or didn't intend. As long as readers are moved, I'll be just fine.

Lynne

Michelle Zink said...

This post really touched me, Lynne.

Sometimes I think we become so focused on just finishing, it's nice to be reminded of the privilege we have in sharing the lives of our characters and stories.

I still have a long way to go before I really say goodbye to my characters, but I think I'll appreciate the journey a little more because of this post.