A Fantastic Idea

6 Mar

I had so much fun the other day in the fog!

I get fantastic ideas sometimes. And, from time to time, I act on them.

Like the time I decided our family should drive six hours north over Labor Day weekend and go to Family Camp at Covenant Park Bible Camp where my husband and I met and sleep out in a tent. Trouble was, the neighbors at the resort across the road had the fantastic idea that they’d play Johnny Cash at full volume at three in the morning. Their great idea outblasted my great idea by a long shot and now I cannot hear “Ring of Fire” without feeling cross and tired.

Or the time I thought I’d make lentil soup with the leftover ham bone after Easter, only I’d put a brown sugar and mustard glaze on the ham and the soup tasted like a melted lollypop. There have been three meals I’ve made in 18 years that ended up in the garbage. That was one of them.

And then there was my idea to write a book. Okay, it’s still a fantastic idea, it’s just that it’s like this neverending process, this eternal journey of editing, editing, editing. I know I’ve fussed about this before, but it’s been awhile so I thought you might like an update!

Yes, I’m still working on getting it published. Yes, an agent has looked at the beginning. No, she did not jump up and down and tell me I’m just what she’s been looking for. HOWEVER – and this is fantastic – she is willing to look at it again if I make a few changes. Four, in fact. All of which are HUGE.

I won’t bore you with what those changes are. Suffice it to say that they require a great deal of re-writing. A great deal of chopping out bits which I worked hard on, which I liked, which I was proud of. Which, as any writer will tell you, feels like the death of an imaginary, 460-page-long child.

I once wrote a poem in college entitled, “Killing My Babies” which was about this exact editing and chopping process. Have I mentioned this poem before? Perhaps so. All I know is that it feels like a little murder every time I send those babies to the land of deletion. I loved those lines! I loved that image!


And so, I sit down at my computer and don my hard hat. My hard-hearted-hat. My umpire’s uniform. My butcher’s apron. And I go to town.

In case you’re wondering, I am not changing my entire book (and life) merely on the whim of one agent. For sure two of the things she mentioned as needing work were things that had been nibbling at the back of my brain as possible issues. I know they need to be fixed. I hadn’t thought of the other two issues she mentioned, but I can totally see her point.

Almost looks like a hyacynth!

And so, I work. I told her I’d get back to her next fall. Is that a realistic goal? I think so. Yes, it feels like a long time away, but I have three flesh and blood kids who also need my attention. Who also need a little pruning, molding, and loving.

And that, my friends, is an even more fantastic idea than writing a book.


18 Responses to “A Fantastic Idea”

  1. Minnesota Prairie Roots March 6, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    You certainly have the right perspective on priorities in life. Your children will be all grown up and gone before you know it.

    But that book, oh, that book. What an opportunity that won’t wait. So make sure you do find time for yourself to make the necessary changes. It is sometimes difficult as a writer to accept an editor’s suggestions. Yet, those suggestions are usually always right and will make your work stronger, better. If you don’t agree, feel free to voice your opinion, sparingly though, and only if you feel strongly. Given the quality of your writing here, I have no doubt that your book will eventually publish.

    BTW, I love that Cash song, Ring of Fire. But then I never had it keep me awake all night. We once got a group of young people kicked out of a campground at 8 a.m. because they partied all night and kept us awake. They deserved the early ousting from bed.

    Finally, thanks for sharing those frost/fog images. Beautiful.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 6, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      It’s amazing the response I’m getting from people (on facebook as well) about that song! But when it’s played over and over all night long…I don’t know who would still like it! 🙂

      Yes, the book…It is very hard to have enough time. but I’m plugging away, and truly am excited about it!

      I will post more pictures from that day here soon…I took so many shots!

  2. marimann March 6, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    Gretchen~ I know how you feel about killing those babies….here’s what I do so that it doesn’t hurt so bad. I don’t delete them, I cut them and save them to another document that I title with the name of the book I’m cutting them from and something like “excerpts” and then I save them to that document. That way, they’re not lost forever and if you needed them, either to put back in the book or for something else, they’re still alive and waiting! Or, at the very least, you can visit them every now and then and say, “ahh, my babies…” 🙂

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 6, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      I actually do that! I began doing it just because I didn’t know for sure if I’d want it again someday/somehow, but yes, it’s nice to know it still exists…even if no one will ever read it! It is a comfort for sure! thanks for the suggestion – it’s a great compromise for someone who might find themselves in the position!

  3. Books, Libs, Scripts March 6, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.” George Orwell

    PS. Orwell also started that paragraph with “All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the bottom of their motives there lies a mystery”, but I thought I’d not start by, however indirectly, calling you “vain, selfish and lazy”. 🙂

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 6, 2012 at 11:19 am #

      🙂 You made me laugh! That’s a great quote. (And thanks for coming back today!) I do think that there is an element of arogance, perhaps, in a writer. To think that other people are willing to read what you wrote implies that you think highly enough of your writing to expect that! I wrote about that in my “about” a little….

      Yes, I am driven to write. I’ve known since 4th grade that this is what I want to do…it’s just taken me a long time to get here!

  4. Just A Smidgen March 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    I told my mom I couldn’t imagine writing a book and admire anyone who gives it a shot. Incredible that you’ve finished writing your book!! I agree with your approach, keep a copy of the original (thank goodness for computers) and then go to work. I find I edit and change all of my blog posts an average of 25 revisions.. I keep changing my mind and going over and over it, even after it’s published. I just know your book will evolve and become even more beautiful and I can’t wait to buy a copy! xo

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      I can’t wait until you can, either! It’s been…I think almost 5 years since I began writing it. I know I began in the spring, but I can’t remember if it was 4 years ago or 5! And yes, thank goodness for computers. This version of the story is definitely going to be better…I just hope it doesn’t take me another 4 or 5 years to complete!

  5. bitsandbreadcrumbs March 6, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Stay with the book…it will evolve the way it needs to, and be ready to be “birthed” when the time is right. Beautiful pictures of frost!

  6. gardenfreshtomatoes March 7, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Way to go, Gretchen! You’re already ahead of most writers – you finished AND got someone to look at it!
    Sending good thoughts your way as you work throufg the rewrites.
    Who knows? Maybe the parts that don’t quite fit here will find a new life in another work later.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 7, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

      Yes indeed – I am keeping the cuts and we’ll see, And yes, it’s so great to have the first agent I approached be willing to give it not just one look but 2! It’s like cutting down a coat that’s too big…and making it fit just right! It feels good.

  7. hotlyspiced March 7, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    I love Johnny Cash but probably not at that hour of the morning! Oh, good luck with all that re-writing and re-editing. What a huge job. And writing is such a lonely exercise. And you need your own space. And interruptions like the phone or the door bell can really test your Christianity. I hope it goes well. Great that you have a publisher wanting to take a second look – that’s normally unheard of. xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 7, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      I think even Mozart would try my patience at 3 a.m.! Yes, it is a lonely excercise…and it’s hard to find that lonely time! But I steal hours wherever I can find them…and even minutes here and there! I work best NOT at home…because of the exact reasons you mentioned! And yes, the agent being willing to look again is fantastic – I am working hard to ensure that what she sees…she’ll like!

  8. Malou March 9, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    Oh, I know the feeling. I’ve not written any book but written my thesis. I was also unhappy to delete parts especially after having written so much. Anyway, the suggestion to cut and save them in another file is a good idea. You may want to use them another time. 😉

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 9, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Yes, it’s tough! But it also feels right. Especially when you go back to a passage you wrote – months later – and realize that it wasn’t quite as great as you thought it was!!

  9. Mel March 13, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    Writing feels comparable to mothering (though admittedly I write this without having experienced the latter…. just having heard from mothers young and old on the mothering process ;-))

    It sounds like you are on a big journey with your book – one involving plenty of courage and disappointment and hope. Scary, and crazy but wonderful too! Happy writing today as you read this, and look forward to more writing updates from you!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell March 13, 2012 at 9:08 am #

      Yes, it is a long and stressful journey! Especially when I want it to be as good as it can be. Thanks for your encouragement – I wish I had more time to write every day. And yes, I’ll definitely keep you posted!

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