I found myself reminiscing today about the journey I've taken with SHARDS OF GLASS.
First, I wrote a few scenes after my father died. Rough sketches of things that happened, glimpses of the way I felt. I was seventeen when my father died, and I quickly decided it wasn't safe to share my grief with anyone else. So I wrote. In all likelihood, what I needed was therapy and possibly medication, but writing and time brought me through that darkness instead.
At the same time as I blundered my way through mind-numbing depression, I fell in love for the first time. Embarassingly, inappropriately, unrequitedly in love, the way I think could only be managed at eighteen, with an older friend and confidante. Our relationship was unmitigated disaster. I wrote a short story, Kiddo, exploring the dynamics of that disaster. But I still felt I had more to say about it; writing helped me make sense of what happened with us.
Then I took a creative writing class in college, for which we were assigned to write, create and bind our own book for display in the library. Yes! Writing and arts & crafts. I was in heaven. I put together a collection of short stories, excerpts and poems that all related to April and her story, slapped on a black and white cover with two coffee mugs, and titled it "Coffee and Cocoa". Nick (my former love) was coffee, sophisticated, dark and adult; April was cocoa, sweet and naive. It was an interesting experiment for me, but it wasn't the novel, yet.
One day, I was thinking about "What if?" scenarios (which is one of my favorite ways to brainstorm. I thought, What if my father, who was scared of losing his dignity when he was diagnosed as terminally ill, had asked me to assist in his suicide? What if I said yes? How would that change me as a person? What if lying about that one terrible thing caused someone to just start lying about everything, trying to change reality the only way they could?
So I wrote the half of a first draft of SHARDS. That draft, though, was focused on the April & Nick saga, not on April losing her father. I realized unrequited romance was not as interesting as the "what if..." concept I'd discovered, and I was writing the wrong story. Abandoned.
The REAL first draft began with the key first chapter (excerpt) where April helps her father commit suicide; everyone who read it was hooked on the novel. Booya. I finished this draft. I revised. I was finished.
I queried it to agents, and had some interest, including a request for a full (that nothing came of). But then I realized that SHARDS wasn't ready after all. I cut a massive subplot. I cut the ending. I cut 50,000 precious words that I'd poured out on the page and then polished lovingly.
And that's where I am today. Re-writing, revising, trying to coax SHARDS into the stunning novel I know it can be. I'm always at the end, again; now I have to go back through the outline, add in key scenes, get the input of beta readers, revise and polish, polish, polish.
I'm more confident than ever, and oddly content to be back to work when I thought I was done. I believe SHARDS is a wonderful, original story. It needs a little more work. I can't believe it's taken this long, but I still believe.
This is, of course, a very personal story about my writing journey, but I thought it would be interesting to talk about because we all have such different journeys from the first germ of a book to the final product. Some stories write up quickly; some take years to coax to fruition.
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