Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Virtual Pain

And literal pain, too. The last twenty pages of BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT frizzled my neuronal circuitry to smoky cinders.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve revised and written 10,000 words every three weeks. No exceptions. I churned through this seventh revision in record pace. But for some reason, the last 5,000 words took me nearly two months to complete. I guess I needed to give the ending it’s due attention, because in some ways, the ending is more important than the beginning. After all, there are so many loose ends to resolve. And, as a critical reader, I am so often unsatisfied with most story endings. So I struggled - and endured much pain as I slashed and modified and rewrote to get it just right.

The struggle of slouching towards THE END vaporized early Sunday morning when I typed those two magic words out for the seventh time, saved the file, and zipped it over to my writing group for their reading and critiquing pleasure. I am two weeks behind my self-declared deadline of 9/15; Chrys and I are now targeting the first week of October to exchange manuscripts.

Speaking of pain, you, dear reader and writing procrastinator, haven’t yet met PHOEBE, the female protagonist of my story and BEN’S love interest. Phoebe is a medical student who escapes from her loneliness in her books and pottery. When Phoebe lost her mother to cancer a decade earlier, she fixated on a medical career like her internist father, but as a pain management specialist. Phoebe’s tenacious – a quality responsible for her academic and sculpture successes - but her stubbornness extends to her difficulty in clinging too tight to the past. She begins to break her own psychic pain by honoring her mother's memory through song at her Unitarian Universalist church:

Ben’s eyes open wide as I go front and center before the other dozen choir members on the two steps leading to the pulpit. The director catches our attention with her eye, then signals with her right hand to begin.

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
A long way from home,
A long, long way from home.

My voice quavers, then steadies and strengthens, resonating with my mourning. Ben watches me, his intent eyes glisten in the stippled light. I look away; I can’t break down, not now. The choir joins in on the second verse and the momentary urge to weep passes.

My life has accelerated towards this moment for months, maybe even years, but a surprising calm fills me. A hidden strength returns. I raise my voice in tribute to my mother. And for the first time in what seems an eternity, I don’t feel alone.

May your days be free of physical and psychic pain, virtual and real. Peace, Linda


  1. seven revisions. I read that and want to cry. probably something to do with being only 3/4's done with the first draft. :)

    writing novels is not for wimps.

    I'm curious-Phoebe's an only child, yes? No father either?

  2. Oh Linda, it's just great. I can't WAIT to read it all the way through, really. I love Phoebe!

  3. Ah Twiz... and that is only seven revisions of the entire enchilada. Some portions have seen dozens of rewrites. I am no wimp - and neither are you. Persevere, babycakes...

    Yes, Phoebe is an only child, but daddy's still an influence in her life... if you know what I mean...

    Chrys, so glad you love Phoebe. So do I. She was originally a mirror or foil for Ben, but then she got all assertive on me and made me make her a full-fledged protagonist. Bossy girl. She's got her own little journey to make - I look forward to your reaction on that journey.

    This excerpt is one I read publicly. I get to sing this song, which always gets me all emotional. The audience gets all teary-eyed, too.