Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another book update

I didn't suppose it would be as easy as lumping a 300-something page manuscript on my Editor's lap and saying, "There y'are, 'sall done! Can I say I'm finished now?"

But on the other hand..... I had kind of silently said a quick prayer to Ella herself that I was close.

I had another meeting with Meg on Thursday. This meeting was different to the first one. This meeting came with the knowledge that she had delved around in my innermost thoughts, as I have them on the paper that I gave her, and she knew so much more about me, about our journey, about our daughter.

"You aren't nearly finished yet, you know," she said to me with a slight smirk. Oh noooooo!
"Nope. And I really think it needs to finish here," and she proceeded to tell me where (shhhh that's a secret, you don't really think I'd tell you here, did you!?)

I was keen to hear how this perfect stranger would provide her feedback. Would she ruffle my feathers? Would she take a tissue to a single tear threatening to fall as she grabbed my wrist and gave me a look that said, "Oh my goodness! What a trip that was!" Would she tell me it was so horrendous that I was full of my own steam and it'd never go anywhere?

Well. I'm so humbly relieved to hear that... I really have a story here. I truly have a shot at getting this book all the way. It's going to be tougher than I thought getting there - I didn't really expect it would be easy, I always do things (or want to do things) the hard way, the struggling way, for that is how so much of my life has felt: a struggle, an endurance, requiring great stamina and perseverance. I see this challenge of creating a masterfully constructed memoir as no different.

"You have to pare it back though," she said to me. Strip it, I believe she said in order to clarify. Skin it, I was hearing. "There are far too many characters, they need to be merged or turfed."

An interesting, exciting and affirming prospect to me! This takes care of so many issues, not least of which is the old protection of people's privacy thing. I am going to be merging several people - good, bad, ugly - into one or two characters. It will make for a far more streamlined delivery of all the good and unhelpful things that happened to us. They are part of the story, but their identities can both be protected and blended into, say, a more rounded character - for it is true, we have had people who have been blindly supportive (I say 'blind' to illustrate their inability to see that their support has been anything but) in their comments and attendance to us and we have also had the most wonderful people grace our lives, come and go, give and leave without ever expecting to take.... These are the sacrificial characters that are going to have to be melded with the other, less helpful/supportive ones, in order to create a more positive-negative person (or couple of people).

My task as it stands now is to write out my mother altogether (she is a character who is rarely mentioned and really disrupts the flow, more than anything, because I felt the need to tell backstory in relation to her - I am so relieved to see now, through Meg's critical, objective eyes, that she can go). I must also do a timeline and pick out the path through the narrative. Apparently, I do narrative quite well *nonchalant fingernail buff on shoulder* and it creates a speedy trajectory that propels the reader to... well, read. I must also literally pull the story apart and divvy it up into groups (new Word documents), creating themes. There are several strong, important themes that Meg has seen - and I can't go into them here, I have to keep some things about it a mystery so that you all still want to read it! - and she has suggested it will work very well to follow several of these threads, including the characters involved, as if they were separate stories. All converging or crossing at one point: Me.

What I will hopefully end up with is Acts in a play. That's what I'm now aiming for. And it's what I'm about to head to the loungeroom floor with my texta's and large A2 paper and notes from Meg to do. Timelines and working out these so-called Acts.

The one thing that is ringing in my ears, though, is that - according to Meg - there are intrinsic, core commentaries that are subtle yet loud. She said, "It is a model. It is a model of how to behave towards someone who's going through or been through something similar."

And that, dear reader, was the sweetest music to my ears. To know that simply through telling our story, respectfully and tactfully, this message comes across loud and clear .... well, I couldn't pay enough money in the world to thank her for saying, completely unprompted, what I consider to be a massive compliment. To think my book will be helpful... that is really the only reason I am doing this at all. So it's just as well she can see it already! Otherwise, my passion for moving forward might have continued to wane and waver.

Construction-wise, there is a ways to go. But it is so heartening to be finally convinced that I have something special here. Oh my God! How excitement.

I have to say, I'm excited. It's daunting, it's bloody exhausting in fact.... but I am so excited. I haven't had this much of an injection of hope for some months. It has been so timely and so refreshing to hear respectful, yet critical, comment and suggestions of a way forward from someone completely outside of my circle.

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