Yes, that is a picture of Mike in Cambodia, reading my manuscript while fish nibble at his feet. That was more than a year ago, and if you’d told me then I’d still be fine tuning this book 13 months later I may just have jumped into the pond and let the fish have me.
Sometimes it’s a good thing that we don’t fully realize in advance just how much work is in store for us when we follow our passions.
On Sunday Mike hung with Baby Bear while I wrestled with the ending of my memoir. This has to be at least the tenth time I’ve gone through this manuscript in the last two years. I thought that this final read-through before I sent it off for copy-editing would take me about half the time that it actually did – surprise!
And that’s not the only surprise I’ve had in the last two weeks.
I had thought that the draft was very tight, but I trimmed more than a thousand words from it in this final go around. Surprise!
I had thought I was 100% happy with flow, but I ended up having to do more intensive editing on two chapters – one struck me as too long, the other as too dense. Surprise!
I had thought my ending was excellent, but when I got to the end of this final edit I was plagued with the nagging feeling that I hadn’t quite nailed it. Surprise!
This last one perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise. After all, when I hired an editor nine months ago to give me some unbiased feedback on the book, this was one of the things she mentioned.
“I felt a little let down by the ending,” she told me. “Just those last few lines… they’re not as strong as they could be.”
At the time this was one of the few pieces of feedback she gave me that I discounted. I did think it through carefully, but decided she was wrong. Now, nine months later, I’ve decided that she was right after all. It seems that I am not the world’s fastest processor. (This is another thing that shouldn’t surprise me, but still regularly does).
I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with the previous ending for a couple of days, not until I was trying to explain it to Mike one evening.
“It’s just… it’s just… it’s just that it’s cute,” I finally finished. “And a bit glib.”
So on Sunday I sat down with a cup of tea and my iPod and the laptop and stayed there for the several hours it took to eke out the 183 words that make for a different and better ending, a much better ending. The last chapter of the book is set on the day before my wedding, and two of the sentences in that ending state:
I want Mike to be beside me whatever form home might take for me in the future. I am convinced that a white picket fence with him would be better than bumping down a dirt road without him, and that traveling a dirt road together would beat out a white picket fence that’s mine alone.
After Mike read the new ending he came into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around me.
“Aw,” he said into the top of my head. “Do you really mean that? That a dirt road with me is better than a more comfortable, stable home without me?”
I thought briefly of the special little (frustrating) adventures that this particular dirt road has held during the last few weeks, and then I laughed.
“I meant it the day before our wedding,” I said.