I love to develop new tales and write new stories. I twist and turn characters. I torture them, marry them off, give them heartbreaking experiences and renew their spirit with love and happiness. I give them children whom they love and cherish with all their hearts and heartbreaks. I take family members away in grisly accidents and send strangers into their lives to support and challenge them. I can do anything in the world; right wrongs, cause wrongs, cause rights, make volcanoes blow and earthquakes rattle. I can save the universe in every book. Almost always there is a happy ending. Sometimes that happy ending comes in the third book in the series, but what the heck. It's all a process, right?
Unfortunately there is more to writing a novel than simply creating. If it was easy we'd all be New York Times Best Sellers, right? With the fun creative process always comes the drab dull part called editing. I hate editing. As a person who has dealt with non-dominant dyslexia since the name was coined, I find editing arduous and painful. It takes the joy from my shiny novel and dunks it in the glacial silt of Cook Inlet sucking it down like quicksand.
I am not a famous and rich Nora or a Cheryl, or a guy with buried pets, so I thought I had a great idea when I solicited both my husband and mother to help with editing. Free labor right? They are both really good at spelling, word definition and grammar. All the things I am not! And once they begin, they are definitely committed!
Well you know that aged old saying; the best laid plans of mice and men...
Now the first thing you need to know about these beloved individuals is that they have my best interests at heart and want me to be the next author sitting on the sofa with Oprah. That should be your first clue; Oprah's been off the air for a while now.
Both of my darling relations are varying shades of concrete. Not the stuff you walk on. Not the color, but possessing the personality characteristic of being solid, in need of specifics and black and white information. A concrete individual needs facts, figures and objects to deal with (that’s what made my mom a great CFO and my husband a fabulous air traffic controller). There is no shade of gray, no fact left uncovered or undisclosed. It's rules, evidence and practicalities all the way. There is right and there is wrong, period. I used to teach this stuff. I should have known better… are you getting the picture?
On page three of my manuscript, my wonderful mother who raised me to finish my dinner "because there were starving children in India", shook her curly white haired head and softly asked why I had spelled my heroine's name wrong. Then went on to elaborate on a tiny problem she just couldn't pass up; did I understand that my readers may not know what color of brown eyes she had if I just used chocolate as a descriptor since there were many shades of chocolate, including white. And did I want my readers to think my heroine could be an albino?
Albino? White chocolate? What? My main female character just went from a lovely African American woman with hair as black as coal, to an Albino whose name was misspelled.
Across the table, my lovely husband just had to tag team the situation by supporting my mother's point. Adding the fact that the unusual spelling of her name would probably cause my character to have a chip on her shoulder due to constant misspelling of her name which she most certainly carried with her from childhood. And did I want an unstable albino female as the main character of the book?
I had no answer for that one. I didn't even recognize my story at that point.
Six pages later, the love interest of my heroine entered the story. He was tall and totally ripped, spoke three languages and practiced karate.
Remember that curly white haired woman from above? She wanted to know what part of my handsome hunk of a character was ripped and how did a human get ripped in the first place. Were his clothes in tatters? What got ripped? And was one of the languages he spoke English, because if it wasn't then she wouldn't be able to finish the book. Was this novel going to be published in those languages so his friends could read it?
In the first place, my hero is a figment of my imagination and so are his friends. My primary language is English so the book is written in ENGLISH!
I had to escape so out of the house I went, down the street and around the corner to the beautiful benches that sit on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There I sat stewing over my volatile albino heroine and my disabled polyglot hero. Which was when I heard a couple arguing in a ratty old car in the parking lot behind me.
“Jan, you’ve got to stop using. Your kids know. Your folks know. I know. It’s destroying your life and the lives of everyone you touch. I don’t know how much more I can take. You stole your kid’s lunch money for a fix. Come on… Look at yourself. You’re nothing but a skeleton...”
Okay... so maybe concrete isn’t so bad. When I got back to the house they were on page one hundred and fifteen arguing over the description of my little ghost. How could I describe, with any accuracy, a thing that doesn’t exist?
I retreated to my loft where I write and began a new story about a drug addict and the man who...well, you’ll just have to wait for the book.
'The Ghost of Port Chicago'
'The Good, the Bad and the Bet'