Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tanzy and me

I am a big believer in pen-to-paper: I hand write my first drafts. Of course back when I wrote the first draft for "Be Seeing You," this first book of mine, the story had a completely different angle, different names for characters, and a completely different ending. Back then I also thought there was only a second draft between the first and final copies like a school essay: first draft, second draft, final draft. Ha. Three years and more drafts than I can count later, the story that I've wanted to tell all along has finally come to life.

My protagonist Tanzy Hightower and her fantastic journey have taught me invaluable lessons: namely, the power of letting go. I had one ending in mind and Tanzy read it, scowled, tore the pages into little pieces, and tossed them into the air. Okay, obviously it didn't happen exactly like that, but you know what I mean. I kept trying to force her in a direction that wasn't working, only I didn't recognize it at first. I just noticed that certain parts weren't connecting, other parts felt forced. So I took a huge leap of faith and cut the last 20,000 words. I paced my office like a madwoman, desperate to make the old ending work, just in a new way. And by 2am I'd outlined my new path to the old ending. And it still didn't work. Finally, I crawled into bed, teary-eyed and battle scarred, and fell into a fitful sleep. For the next few days I avoided my office at all costs. I read, I watched mindless reality TV, I ate a lot of cookie dough, and I took an online seminar given by literary agent Mary Kole about character development. That seminar made me realize what was wrong with my ending: Who Tanzy is at the beginning of the story might've gone that route I was trying to force her down, but who she has become by the time she arrives in that last, brutal scene is someone completely different (as it should be, right?) The new Tanzy would take matters into her own hands. So at last I let her, and it was magic.

Now that I've learned to listen to my characters instead of trying to tell them what to do, the story naturally unfolds and I just try to keep up. There are still moments when I frown at my screen for so long I go cross-eyed, but I've discovered a few tricks to turn mental roadblocks into speed bumps most of the time (and I will definitely share them in a future post.)

Right now, a publisher has my finished manuscript in their hands, and they just sent word that they like it. Really like it. It's not a done deal yet, but it's looking good. The whole process has been thrilling, humbling (and i mean really humbling,) exhausting, inspirational, frustrating, and fantastic, and I've learned so much along the way that I want to share with fellow first-time writers, readers, and whoever stumbles across this blog and happens to read to the end. I'll catch you up on the last few months (in a word - or three - the query process) and take you with me on this next part of my journey. I'll tell you fun facts about Be Seeing You, give you a glimpse into my cluttered brain, give some stuff away, ask for your opinions, and more. I hope you'll come with me - it's been an awesome ride, and I have a feeling the best is yet to come.

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