Monday, October 21, 2013

Finishing the Book

 "Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both,
but move on. Do better next time."
~Emma Coats of Pixar~

I've always loved the song "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park With George. I understand the artist's compulsion to make it as perfect as possible and his drive for completion. My issue is that once the book is finished, I experience a whole raft of emotions—some terrific, others not so.

We finally completed our latest book The Memory Keeper, a historical novel set in San Juan Capistrano between 1820 and 1890. Our protagonist (and the title character) is a Juaneño Indian. We've spent the last two-plus years with him. During that time, we've grown to love him and his family as well as the city of San Juan Capistrano itself and its historic mission.
 Larry has done most of the research. The completed book will contain pages and pages of bibliography. Pamela Hallen-Gibson, the official historian of San Juan, was our first beta reader. We sent her Chapters One through Three over a year ago. She provided a number of great suggestions.

Jacque Nunez, herself a descendent of the Juaneños, local school teacher, and storyteller, spent hours with us describing the native lifestyle. She provided some vocabulary which added a great deal of depth to the story.

Several others, including the Lagunita Writers Group, read and critiqued the chapters. At this point we feel the book will be ready to submit as soon as we run the final chapters by the group on Monday night, incorporate their final suggestions, and send the completed manuscript back to our beta readers for final comments.

Once that is done, the withdrawal will begin. Having lived intimately with these characters for so long, and loving them as if they were family, letting them go will be hard. Since they won't be back again with other stories, I feel like the parents of the early pioneers must have felt as they watched their children disappear over the horizon knowing they would not be back. Losing these precious beings feels a bit like a death, and we are starting to mourn them.

Of course, we are excited to start sending out queries and to work with a publisher. We can't wait to actually see the book in print and listed on Amazon. We look forward to sharing this very special story with others, particularly those who also know and love San Juan.

Fortunately, I have three or four other projects waiting to be started or completed. One of them has been annoying Larry since it hasn't gotten my attention, so perhaps we will do that one together.

We're not finished writing, but we need to go through the process of allowing this one to find its way before we begin again. It's a bit like handing your teenager the car keys for the first time and letting them drive onto the street and out of sight. Once the book is submitted, it is no longer a work-in-progress. It is finished and needs to find its own audience.

Meanwhile, we'll continue to visit San Juan and remember what it was like in the nineteenth century when our characters 'lived' there.

Do other authors share these feelings?


  1. I for one am anxious to see this book. Sounds fantastic.


    1. We've certainly worked hard enough to assure it is not only historically accurate but a gripping and engaging family story. Now comes the hard part--waiting!