A lot of writers outline their manuscript before they begin writing. I do too. I just can't stick to the plan.
For instance, since I'd often wondered how the arms of the Venus de Milo disappeared, I decided to write a fictional story about the artifact--a tale about a heroine who arrived in England with one of the arms as proof she'd found a treasure.
My plan was to have thieves discover the arm, realize the potential value, and steal the proof of the find.The thieves would escape, although I didn't know where the broken piece of sculpture would go, or how the rest of the statue would end up in France.
So then I started writing, and...things changed. The outline went out the window.
Walking through the living room, I heard something from the historical program my husband was watching—something about the discovery of the Venus de Milo. Instantly, I remembered my fascination with her and knew I wanted to write about her.
When I was very young I'd seen a photo of the statue and I was puzzled. The statue was famous, and didn't anyone notice she was broken? I didn't get it. If no one else seemed overly concerned then I would not speak up. This emperor has no clothes and no arms.
But I didn't stop being concerned about her arms. When I was a child, somehow, a mannequin hand ended up at my house. If an old mannequin hand is tossed aside, what child can resist it?
To this day, I imagine a little boy running around on the island where the statue was discovered. He's chasing the other kids with the arm of the Venus. I really believe that is why the Venus has no arms. They were just too hard for a child to resist.
As an adult, that arm was too hard for me to resist. I ran with it, and finally, finally, I can stop worrying about the statue with no arms.
Sitting at my computer on the day I got the call from an editor telling me I’d sold my first manuscript, I took stock of how it hadn't changed my life. Selling a manuscript hadn’t cured the chips on my fingernails. Rose petals didn't fall from the sky and flutter down around me. I was not younger or thinner.
Now, in fact, I had a new deadline and more work to do.
It was the 26th of November. Thanksgiving was forty-eight hours away, and I needed a synopsis of my book on the editor’s desk the next day. I sent the synopsis and prepared for the holiday.
On that Thanksgiving morning, while I was showering, we had a small earthquake. I wasn’t surprised. After years and years of struggling, I’d sold a novel. The earth was shaking. I like to think it was celebrating.
And the movement wasn’t because I was doing the Happy Dance. I was too busy to dance. I received the actual contract on a Friday a few weeks later. It seemed like a much, much longer wait than that. Finally, on December 18th, I was ready to mail the contract. I told my husband I was going to listen to a Beatles song. He knew which one. Paperback Writer. After years of identifying with that song, I could listen to it while knowing I was going to have my own paperback. That was the culmination of dream. But I had one more surprise to discover. The editor asked for a photo, and the photographer did a bit of retouching. I looked thinner and younger--at least in the picture. I'm happy.
I've heard writing compared to a roller coaster ride. Of course I would agree, and add in the fact I get motion sickness. But I didn't have any idea of how fast the ride could be in writing.
I expected to be happy when I first learned I was getting published. I was, I think. Tearfully so. I didn't just cry when I got the news; I cried every time I thought of it. It's hard to experience joy fully when you keep sniffling.
The most surreal moment was seeing the cover. I didn't have a concrete image of the characters in my head. And when I saw them, I was impressed. Whoever selected the models and pose couldn't have done a better job. I was pleased to see what my characters really look like.
Seeing the book actually on the website caused a bit of a scream, and an instant headache. If you can have happy tears, I suppose I had a happy headache--but it still hurt. I suppose my blood pressure might have jumped a considerable amount.
And just this moment, I realized I'll be able to put a copy of my book on a bookshelf in my house. I'd once seen into another writer's closet where she had copies of her books stacked and I was impressed. She'd had 86 books published and a few foreign editions...
I don't think it ever occurred to me that I would some day need to find a bookcase in my house for a book I'd written. And all my bookcases are already overflowing with other writers' books. I suppose I could put my book in a closet. Yeah. Like that's going to happen...
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