Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Story's End

I finished my BWCA book on Monday night. Well, I should qualify that statement. I finished "writing" the book on Monday. Maybe I should qualify the qualifier, I finished writing the last chapter of my book. What remains is another 45 pages of "final editing" with my Thursday workshop group, whom I am growing to really appreciate.

The book as it stands now is about 255 pages long and about 70,000 words. I started writing it in "concept" in 2005 during a class offered through the City of Waukesha titled "Writing from your life." What came out of that class was a seven-page piece that was the kindling for the bonfire that has become my book. As it turns out, it was written badly enough to be used for kindling, but that's a different story.

In looking back through the piece, I cover a little bit of everything from a camping standpoint. I talk a little about the characters, a little about the shopping, fishing, portaging and the rest. It was like a framework for the other 248 pages. Another little tidbit was that it was my original intent that the piece was the end-all for the BWCA. I wanted to capture some of the memories and have it for the family. I did that and that's where it sat.

Three years later I joined AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop and started futzing with the stories again, like a mechanic working on a junk car. What I found as I worked through the piece though was that the car wouldn't do with just a bondo-job, I needed to strip it to the frame and give it an engine, because frankly it didn't go. It was a concept car.

So how did I arrive at 255 pages? My brother thought it was kind of amazing that I was able to get so much out of so little. For as amazed as he is, I am even more so. I have no idea where it came from. Frankly, I used to shudder at the concept of a 10 page paper in college. I always made it through, but the thought was terrifying.

I say I have no idea where it came from, but in reality I do. It all came from a lot of hard work. Countless hours on three different laptops pounding away, in two different notebooks, scrawling away. It was fueled by gallons of coffee and, yes more than a few beers.

I wouldn't go so far to say it was ghost written by my peers in my writing workshop, but they had a heavy hand in it. They were there passing me the wrench when I was taking off the alternator because I put it in backwards. They were helping me mop up the antifreeze when I forgot to put the drain plug in. They were the ones talking me off the ledge when I said maybe it was a lemon and I'd be better off junking it. They told me it was beautiful and helped me see the flakes in the metallic paint that I thought were scratches. It's my guess they'll be there with me when I take it out for its first spin when I get it running too.

It's a little like intending to go to the grocery store to get some coffee and you end up walking to Columbia to get better beans. How did I get here?  (This is not my beautiful house.) I didn't intend to write a book, I just wanted to write a story.

And I guess I did. A really, really, long one.

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