There are many benefits of working in a library, but one of my favorites is (of course) being around books all day long. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I love posting pictures of old/neat/interesting/funny books I find on our shelves. The other day I found this book:
Little Journeys to the Homes of Eminent Painters by Elbert Hubbard
It’s an art book from 1901. The cover is ridiculously soft, and sadly falling apart due to wear and tear. I flipped through it gently, and stumbled upon this quote on the first page:
“…I hope this book will not suffer the dire fate of falling into the hands of any one who has forgotten the days of his youth.”
Isn’t that sentiment lovely? How sad would it be to forget our youths. To forget the days that made us who we are today.
I think, ultimately, that’s why I write (besides the fact that I love to/need to). I love revisiting those days of my childhood when I was so much braver. When everything felt possible, and there was no fear of mortality. I think that’s what I hope to give to my ( hopefully one day) readers. A flashback to times we all share, times that make us smile.
First page of "Dharma Bums." Editor's comments in pencil. Kerouac's comments in red.
Here’s a fun fact for you: when Jack Kerouac wrote Dharma Bums, he wasn’t touring the country or in a small apartment in New York City, he was living here in Orlando. My library actually has the original DB manuscript, edits and all. It’s really remarkable to see.
What I found to be hilarious, though, was how Kerouac actually rejected most of the edits suggested. There’s actually a page where he wrote “Viking Press changes that I rejected.” How crazy is that!
I’ve discussed earlier how I actually love getting critiques. Sure it hurts somtimes, but that’s good. Because I know the people who are editing are helping the book, not hurting me. And that’s my ultimate goal, isn’t it?
I say all of this because…the editing phase is finally done on TNWSY. I sent out my first query yesterday. I’m nervous, of course, but also extremely excited. I know there will be rejections, I know there will be hard times, but I also know I worked hard on the book, and I’m excited that it actually turned into something. Something someone might see one day.
Wish me luck!
I’ve read so many articles where writers described how their characters talked to them. How the characters led the story and made decisions of their own. And I thought it was so cool. I wanted that to happen. I wanted my characters to come alive and be something more than 2D ideas. But every time I wrote, it never happened. I realized later it was because I never got to know them enough to allow them to come alive.
As I wrote TNWSY, I had a general idea of how the book would start and end. I had a beginning fleshed out and finish line all of the characters were running towards. But as for the middle, there was just a bare skeleton guiding me. Sure, I had ideas of what would happen to get them from point a to point b, but never real concrete plans. I was scared, of course, that I wouldn’t figure it all out.
But as I approached an undecided part, I found scenes coming to me. Not always easily, but they came quickly and excitingly. My characters decided they didn’t want to stay at a party, instead they wanted to go out. They told me where they should go, they led the story. And it was absolutely amazing. Even my ending, the one I previously plotted, was changed. They thought it was too cheesy, of course.
After I finished, I went back and re-read it. Starting with the first chapter, I noticed how out of character some quotes were, how unauthentic. That’s how I realized my characters had voices. As soon as I realized that, I knew I was on the right track.
That’s not to say my story is perfect or even complete – even right now I’m finding new things to change and add. I’m just saying that, despite it never happening before, it is possible for characters to come alive. It’s amazing and crazy and, well, magical. They create stories of their own, and, as a writer, it’s our job to just catch up.