Here she is: the completed manuscript for Cherry Lane.
What an incredible adventure this has been, not just through my subconscious, but also through the world of writing and editing. And there is still so much more to be done. But the book is finally in a state where I'm comfortable sharing with a select few folks who have offered to provide feedback.
Looking back now, I can say that starting this journey nearly six months ago, I was incredibly naive as to how much I could accomplish in one sitting. In my mind, I thought I'd be through the first draft in a month, and would have editing wrapped up a few months after that. The reality is that the initial draft took nearly four months, with much layering and shifting of sections, and the second and subsequent drafts took about two months. Very thankful for the six month sabbatical from work, as that is essentially how long it took to get to this stage.
I worked nearly every day, including weekends, so these next two weeks (well, just one now) before I go back to work are all mine, and I'm planning to relax and bask in the glow of accomplishment. I'm not sure if my process was similar to or different from other writers, but I could swear that within my first draft, there was probably a second or third that I wound up weaving during that initial writing, so who knows how many actual drafts there really were. I was very scattered. And I pulled the pieces together as I felt they fit at the times that I couldn't move forward any longer without doing so. I'm not sure I'm making much sense explaining this, but, in a way, that's exactly what it seemed like to me, too — things were happening that I wasn't aware of. Truly, I feel tapped into a collective well of inspiration, and I don't think it's possible to explain how you draw from it.
What I can tell you with certainty is that, after the initial draft, it was very painstaking threading it all together so that it flowed properly in order to maintain a similar voice throughout. That was an art form in itself. Making sure the story and timeline and characters were cohesive. Like playing Jenga, but way more intense. That second draft was a beast!
The third draft was more fun, in the sense that I was able to chop a bunch of unnecessary words, and could focus on basic line edits throughout. I had no idea what some of my crutch words were, and let me tell you, my eyes are now open! As an example, here are a few repeating words I initially counted in the manuscript:
Just = 364; Like = 448; So = 337
There were many others as well, and I also focused on cleaning up adverbs in favor of using stronger verbs. I have to say, removing the word 'Just' throughout made the biggest impact. I could see the sentences tightening as I went along; however, that being said, I ended up putting some back in the last time I read through the manuscript when I felt they added impact.
There is still more work to be done. I'm sending the book to a small group of talented folks who've offered to read through it and provide feedback ('beta-readers'). Once I receive all of their feedback, I will go through and make another round of potentially major revisions. I am excited to receive the feedback — I'm so close to the story, the people, and the places, that it's nearly impossible for me to know what may be confusing to the reader. It will be invaluable criticism.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to stepping away from it for awhile. I need a breather. Next time I pick it up, my eyes will be fresh and my mind will be open once again. I am looking forward to seeing where this baby goes in the future. I think it has a lot of promise.
Thank you to all of you who have followed along during these difficult yet rewarding months, and who've provided endless support and encouragement. I couldn't have done it without you!