Monthly Archives: November 2012
I don’t like writing rough drafts. I’m not really sure why. I think it might be all the frustration. Facing the blank page is intimating, no matter how many times I’ve been there. I know that frustration is unavoidable, and even necessary, if you want unique characters and plot. But that is all behind me now, and I’m now in the middle of my favorite part of writing a book.
I like writing second drafts, when my characters are alive and my story has a beginning, middle, and an end. I love having something to work with, because something, even if it is terrible, is better than a blank page. There’s satisfaction in finding the perfect word and rearranging sentences and paragraphs. It’s like this huge puzzle where everything has its perfect spot and until I find it, it just doesn’t feel right. But when I do, it makes me smile. It makes me happy to see it all take shape.
I work on one printed out chapter at a time . No matter what, I don’t rush through a chapter. If the first draft is heavy metal: wrote without restraint, fast, hard, loud, bad, get your ideas on the page! then the second draft is more like country music: the pace is more laid back – I can hear the lyrics, hear the story – slow dance with my characters. I move on to the next chapter after I can’t find anything else to change, or I get crossed-eyed and start overanalyzing.
I have to make difficult decisions along the way. I have to cut entire paragraphs that don’t move the story forward and cut ideas that I thought were clever because they don’t work elsewhere. It is especially difficult for me to cut because I struggle with story length. However, my story is always always better after changes, and so I have to trust myself and trust the process.
So to me, working on the second draft of a novel is like two-stepping through a rhythmic maze with smiles along the way to the big reward at the end: an “almost” finished novel. (There are still a couple of drafts to go.)
So until the third draft …
Love and Laughter,
The Thanksgiving Play
The sun was coming over the turkey when all hell broke loose. I watched from my front row seat with panicked amusement as the cardboard sun fell on the turkey’s head. The turkey tripped the little Native American, which made him fall on the Thanksgiving filled table. The table went sideways, and so did all the plates, fake food, and decorations. All the six-year-olds froze, round eyed, until my little Mary began to cry, she was a pilgrim at the table, which set off another disastrous chain. There was now a chorus of twelve sobbing first graders added to the Thanksgiving play.
I was about to run up on the stage to comfort my daughter when the teacher, Mrs. Leto, showed her face. She’d been holding the rope on which the sun was hoisted, making night turn into day, or in this case, night turn into catastrophe.
She smiled at the audience—an oops smile—and went to the turkey first to make sure Angela’s mom wasn’t going to sue. When she seemed satisfied by Angela’s answer, she said to us the audience, “Thank you for coming. You can get your children from back stage in five minutes.” She then did something magical with her hand, and all the kids lined up in a nice little sniffling train and followed her off the stage.
My husband, Phillip turned to me. “Wasn’t it supposed to last longer?”
I frowned in response and then nudged my nine-year-old son, John, trying to stop his hysterical laughter that I just then noticed. “Now when we get in the car, I want none of that,” I told him. And then I turned back to Phillip. “That means you, too.”
He shrugged his shoulders as to say, the very idea was ridiculous.
I wanted to laugh too, but I knew I had to be the straight man. Mary had looked crushed. She had been counting the days until this play. This had been her life for the past two months. She had practiced for her big end-of-the-play speech every night after dinner. But the sky had fallen right before her speech, and she didn’t get to say it. I closed my eyes trying to think how I was going to comfort her. I didn’t think ice cream and a hug were going to help this time.
“I’m going to go get Mary. You two stay here and pull it together. You know she is very disappointed and is going to be upset. So, no talking about it. And especially, no laughing about it.”
I followed a couple of other mothers, whose children didn’t have a speech at the end of play, backstage. Their kids ran up to them, talking with hyper excitement about what had happened. Mary didn’t run up to me. She made me look for her.
It took me only a second to spot her sitting by herself, arms crossed, and head down, in the middle of the floor. People were stepping over and around her like she was a prop. But I knew trying to budge her in her current mood wouldn’t work, so I joined her instead.
I also knew not to say anything to her; I just waited until she decided to acknowledge me.
“Let’s go,” was all she finally said. She stood up and left me sitting in the middle of the floor by myself.
By time I caught up to her, she stood by Phillip and John. Phillip had his hand on her shoulder talking to her. She nodded in agreement with whatever encouraging words he said. I smiled, happy to see that at least she would talk to one of us.
I heard Mary giggle as I approached, but when she saw me, she went somber again. Phillip had caught it too and frowned and shrugged his shoulders.
“Mary?” I said. “Are you okay?”
She didn’t say anything.
“I’ll let you two talk,” Phillip said and grabbed John’s arm and took him with him.
Mary stood with her arms crossed over her darling brown and white pilgrim dress. She looked so grown up at that moment, her hair in a bun, and soft pink blush on the apples of her cheeks.
“Sweetheart,” I bent down. “Are you okay? I’m very sorry about the play.”
She kept her head down and didn’t look at me.
I was becoming a little upset myself. “I don’t understand. Why are you mad at me? I didn’t stop the play.”
She finally let her eyes to glance my way and whispered, “I’m not mad at you, Mommy.”
“You’re not? Then why are you ignoring me? Why won’t you talk to me?”
“It’s just that … well, I wanted to make you happy.”
“I am happy. I thought you did a wonderful job.”
“But I know how happy you were when you found out I got the speaking part.” She sniffled. “I didn’t get to speak.” Her tears began to flow. “And I just wanted to make you happy.”
I took my crying daughter in my arms and hugged her tight. “I was so happy because I thought it made you happy that you got the speaking part.”
“So you’re not mad?”
“No, of course not.” I pulled her away gently and wiped at her tears. “I’m very proud of you. It takes a lot of guts just to get up there in front of everyone.”
She smiled up at me, her eyes still held unfinished tears. “Can I say it for you now?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
“Can I stand on the stage?”
“I think that will be fine. Let me call your dad over, okay?”
She nodded and walked onto the stage. I waved to Phillip.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
“Yes, just a misunderstanding,” I said. “But I’m sure glad that sun fell on the turkey tonight.” I was thinking to myself that if the play had been successful, I would have never known I had put so much pressure on Mary.
He nodded, even though I could tell he had no idea what I was talking about.
“I’ll explain later,” I said and then we sat back down in our seats.
Mary stood proud on the darkened stage. Her hands were behind her back and she smiled sweetly. She cleared her throat, and then began her speech, “That is why the last Thursday of November was set aside as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise. It is a day for families and friends to gather and to be thankful for even the little things, like turkeys …”
Love and Laughter,