Sunbeams break through the clouds.
Rainbows paint themselves across the sky.
Trumpets split the silence with their clarion call.
A flock of doves explode into the air.
What do other authors feel when they place that last period? How do mathematicians feel when that equation suddenly resolves and x is no longer a mystery?
Does a turmoil of emotion bubble up when the artist finally sets down their paint brush and steps back? Exhaustion may figure heavily into the mix, but mostly, the emotion is a thick admixture of relief and joy. I liken it to “It’s a girl!” declared after excruciatingly painful labor. There is nothing quite like the sense of completion.
Yesterday I completed the manuscript of “Misho of the Mountain.”
This is the version. How do I know? Because Misho stopped running around in circles in the back of my mind at 2 AM–as much as a little tree can run in circles.
I had written several earlier drafts. The story was clean; the theme ran true. Something was missing. Misho’s voice wasn’t clear, and the more I edited, the more unsure I was. Misho’s voice became garbled. Well, that’s not what’s supposed to happen when you polish a story.
Ambiguity begets anxiety. It was time for a new perspective, so I decided to experiment. Why not try writing “Misho” in different styles, just for fun? Misho as written by e.e. cummings or James Joyce, perhaps. I decided to try writing the first section in rhyme. I assumed that rhyme might trivialize the theme or dilute the emotions I was trying to convey, but rhyme is a worthy tool to examine the essential components of a story.
I wrote a few stanzas, and to my surprise, I liked it. No, I loved it. I didn’t want to love it. It was just a tool, dang it. To my amazement and consternation, the story flowed better, the redundancies melted away, and my characters achieved the voices I heard in my head. (Don’t be alarmed, I’m pretty sure many authors hear the voices of their characters in their heads. Don’t they?)
I tried out the experimental verses on a few people familiar with the project. My sister liked it. My wife liked it. My illustrator loved it! How could I ignore consensus?
So I continued with the rest of the book, convinced that I would not be able to capture the action and emotion of the prose version. In places it was like pulling teeth — old, nasty, ingrown teeth. But I was delightfully wrong about rhyme and emotion. In rhyme, Misho launched herself as a full-blown entity, alive and self-aware. Her world unveiled itself, leaving just the right gaps for illustrative expansion. Misho reached completion.
There will be editing. And editing. But I rested happy last night. Misho and her friends slept through the night with nary a whisper in my head. And we all awoke to sunbeams.
Do you have something you just finished and are proud of or just about to finish? Tell us in the comments!
Thanks to everyone who intentionally or unknowingly inspired me to “get ‘er done” through example or encouragement!
- Teri Rider, my illustrator and publishing guru
- Ask Celestine Chua, Personal Excellence blog and excellent anti-procrastination seminar
- Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds
- Shannon Whitmore, my wife
- Barbara Templeton, my sister
- Lin Surrey, friend and fan