If These Walls Could Talk
I was looking out at the fresh snow this morning (trying to ignore that the temperature is below zero) and thinking about Christmas. When I later stumbled across this picture, it made me think about Christmas in a remote cabin, hundreds of years ago. While the cabin in this picture is not as primitive as it would have been in the past, it conveys a sense of isolation one might have felt then. I can imagine this as the first cabin in some unmapped territory, days or weeks from the nearest small town.
What was it like to be a young mother, trying to raise your family in a small cabin, many miles from any other people? It took incredible strength and determination to be one of the first, forging a new home and a new nation out of wilderness. Even the simplest task was very difficult then – starting with putting up the cabin walls, and continuing with everyday chores. The effort needed to find or grow food, haul water, chop firewood and all of the other tasks essential for survival consumed long, exhausting days.
With all of the work needed merely to exist, how did one keep track of the days to know when it was Christmas? And how did they celebrate? If these walls could talk, they might tell us about a mother checking her supplies, wondering if she could spare some flour to make a cake or cookies. Or hoping she had spices left to flavor them. There was no running to the store if she was out.
And what about gifts? If these walls could talk, they might be witness to the mother spending what free time she had in the evening knitting warm caps and mittens for her family. If her husband was handy, perhaps he carved small toys for the children. These walls might have heard them talking by the fire as they worked. After the children were snug in the loft, these walls might have heard about the parents’ hopes and dreams, their wishes for a better future.
The walls knew those children in the loft weren’t really asleep yet. The children knew Christmas was coming. They knew Santa would find them, no matter how isolated their home. They whispered their own wishes to each other. Their parents didn’t hear, but the walls did.
If these walls could talk, they could tell us about the family who lived here many, many years ago. The cabin has changed over the centuries, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the desire from the people inside it for a happy Christmas, and a peaceful and joyous New Year.
And that is what I wish for you in this holiday season.
After a side trip to assess possible Golden Heart entries, I am back to work on revisions for my Georgian historical romance. I told you last week my hero and heroine meet later than they should in the first draft. Hopefully, I have fixed that now – at least on my paper copy. Once I move some scenes around, delete a few others, and add the key scene where they meet (I’m not telling you how!) then I will do another read through and see how it flows.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about how writing a story is like building a house. If I continue with that analogy, I poured the foundation and put up the framing for the walls when I completed the first draft. Now, after identifying some scenes to add/move/delete, I guess you could say I am moving some of the walls. (But at least I didn’t already do the wiring or put up the drywall.)
I am getting excited again about working on this story, after being away from it. This is when being a writer can be a lot of fun. I am eager to complete the scene changes and see the results. Hopefully, this will be the end of any major redesigns, and I can get back to the next round of revisions. Some of the scenes need better opening lines. And I have discovered I tend to rush through the last quarter of the book – I suppose because I can’t wait to get to the ending. In other words, my house still needs the plumbing and electrical installed.
While you might think I am discouraged by this list of fixes, I am oddly encouraged by it. The simple fact I have recognized these items is proof to me how I have grown and matured as a writer. I know I made all of these and more mistakes in my first story, but it took a long time and many revisions to realize it. Now that I know the mistakes I made in my current WIP, I can fix them right away. And hopefully, avoid making them in future stories. Measure twice, cut once.
Round One of Editing a First Draft
Recently, I finished the first draft of my latest story, my Georgian historical romance. After letting it “season” for a few weeks, I started my revisions this past week. It was an enjoyable yet humbling experience.
The first round of editing started with a high-level read through of the story as a whole. My intent was to read it fairly rapidly, looking for major issues such as slow pace, missing or too-short scenes, etc. Any notes would be jotted down on a separate notepad positioned near my elbow, so I didn’t have to make any notes on my printed manuscript.
I learned two things shortly after I started reading. The first lesson I learned is that my story is not quite as complete as I smugly thought it was. Which shouldn’t have surprised me – it is still only a first draft, after all. The bones of a good story are there, but it needs a little of shuffling of scenes. The main problem to fix is when the hero and heroine meet. I’m not someone who believes they absolutely must meet on the first page of the story or you should throw out the story. In fact, I still think not having them meet right away could add some poignancy to this particular story. But once I started reading, I had to admit they were meeting too late in the story arc, even for me. But I can fix that. In fact, thanks to some brainstorming assistance from the writers I meet every Wednesday night, I have some good ideas on how to accomplish it.
The second lesson I learned is I am not very good at reading a paper copy of a story without marking it up. My plan to not do any detailed editing on the first reading only lasted about two pages. There are lots of blue ink marks on the text, in addition to the notes I did manage to write on other paper. While I wasn’t supposed to be looking for minor typos or other quick edits, if I noticed them, I couldn’t pass them by without noting them. I consoled myself that this will make the next round of editing go faster, but I might just be fooling myself.
However, there was also good news in all of this. I still really like this story. I like the hero and heroine, and some of the scenes still make me cry, every time I read them. Once I get this story down on paper the way I see it in my head, I think readers will like it too. I have a few more rounds of revisions before I get to that point, but I look forward to the day I can put my latest creation into another reader’s hands.
I write historical fiction, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.