Wednesday, September 30, 2009

revision example

The following is from my handwritten Laine story. You need to know that her older sister Lauren has died - she was driving drunk and killed another college student, Samantha. Laine started writing to Samantha's mom Carolyn. This excerpt is from near the beginning of the story:

Laine didn't explain the letters to anyone, not really to Carolyn either except to say that her own parents were very closed to her right now, in their own closets of grief, she said. And her own friends couldn't act normal around her anymore because they didn't know if it was okay to cry about a failed calculus exam when Laine had something much bigger - a dead sister - to cry about. And if anyone mentions their brother or sister, everyone looks straight at me.

Honestly, I just need somewhere to put my own feelings and it can't be a diary because I'll open it up again too soon and get sad again or think I am stupid. I need to know my words are -

Laine didn't know what to write. Heard? Understood? It was study hall and most seniors got passes to leave campus, especially in the spring. It was May and the lilacs were blooming. But Laine liked the dusty smell of the library, specks suspended in streaks of sunlight. She liked the heavy tables and maple chairs, scarred by bored students.

Laine reached her arms high, arching her back for a stretch. She bent back over the page.

I am being selfish. I want someone to listen and maybe I shouldn't ask that of you. If you are tired of my letters, mail this one back and I won't write another.

Laine's stomach flip flopped when she wrote that but she included a self-addressed stamped envelope as if she were sending off for a contest entryform.

Okay. And here follows the revision. Keep in mind that the following will likely go through another revision before I call it done. However, I found the time off between the first writing and this very good - I think that I thought about how to make the story work, even when I wasn't thinking about it. So I've added more than I expected:

She'd been writing to Carolyn for a little over five months. She wrote about school and getting ready for college. She wrote about running the four hundred in track and what it felt like when her lungs burned at the end of a race - purifying. She wrote a list of reasons why she decided to skip her senior prom, even though she had a date and even though she could still find a dress in time. She wrote about ceramics class and holding cold lumps of clay in her hands, kneading them warm and workable. For a little over five months, she wrote to Carolyn but Carolyn didn't write back.

I think if my parents knew I was writing you they'd tell me to quit. They'd say it was "inappropriate" or "upsetting" for me to write you. Even though it isn't inappropriate or upsetting to me. Is it to you?

Maybe I'm using you. I hadn't thought of that before, but it might be true. I need a place to put my thoughts. I've never kept a diary. Probably because it seems like evidence that might one day be used against me: See, this is how stupid you were. And if I kept a diary, my words wouldn't be going out to anyone. I still wouldn't be heard and that's what I want, to be heard. Understood, even.

It was Laine's study hall. Most seniors got passes to leave campus, especially during the spring. Outside, lilac bushes were shades of purple, but Laine liked the hot dusty smell of the library, specks suspended in streaks of sunlight. She liked the heavy maple tables and chairs, scarred by bored students.

Laine reached her arms high, arching her back for a stretch. She bent back over the page.

I am being selfish. I want someone to listen and I shouldn't just expect that of you. I keep thinking our losses are the same, but they aren't. Not really. If you are tired of my letters, mail this one back and I won't write another.

Laine signed her name and felt sick to her stomach. But she mailed the letter on her way home after school, including a self-addressed stamped envelope. She thought of Lauren entering contests and sending off for cereal box prizes.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about posting a work in progress online. When I think the Laine story is ready for more critical eyes, I'll recruit a few honest people to read it.

1 comment:

The Laughing Mouse said...

I am so proud of you for putting this out there!! I had thoughts, not negative or critical thoughts, just thoughts, input. But it's sounding like you don't quite want input yet. I'd like to read more about Laine. And no, I don't think Laine is a dumb name. Keep it up!! Work has gotten 'messy' for me this week, I forget if I emailed you .... so, I may end up writing more ...a lot more ... we'll see what God has in mind. Miss you!!