Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I Learned from Writing, "What I Learned from Daniel"


     I would have liked to believe that writing the book "What I Learned from Daniel" would be all the things you might like to say it was, therapeutic or cathartic, as well as a monument to a wonderful human being who happened also to be our child.  So far though, I am not there.  Since Daniel's passing, and writing this blog, which is a snapshot of certain feelings along this sometimes dark passage, I always knew that it should be a book also.  I knew that in addition to the world's seeing a snapshot of take-away moments as in blog, that it should also have a sequential story of Daniel's life on Earth, what happened which took him from us, as nearly as we know, and our sometimes strange journey afterward.  I knew that the book should be, but starting it was hard, and the words on the page often could not immediately convey as monumental experience as having him with us on Earth, really was.
                  I started with an outline. Sharing so much about one's life, it would be easy to go off on tangents. I didn't want this particular book to be about the experience of raising all our children, and it easily could be. This book was to be about Daniel, what shaped him, what the circumstances were which brought him to us, and how great a loss losing him was, and how we survived and moved forward in spite of it all.  I tried to discipline myself to write a bit each day.  My most productive writing time is from about four a.m. to seven or eight a.m. and then, I am afraid, real life with phone calls, errands, and other chores and issues begin to intrude. Some days, I could really roll, and others, very little appeared on the page. This is simple, I told myself. You are only telling the story of your meeting this wonderful child, given to you by God, and you're taking the reader with you as he grows and through parts of his life that help them know him. Then, you must tell them the truth about what happened to him. Then, you must share what happened afterward.  Piece of cake !, I would mentally tell myself.  But of course, it wasn't.  Sometimes, each word was hard fought for. Sometimes, I felt like a painter trying to create a painting with one color. I felt ill equipped to paint all the dimensions of Daniel, with simply words. "There should be music", I thought. Well, that would be a movie, not a book, I told myself.
                  In the four years since Daniel has been absent from his "flesh suit" and here on Earth, I have been very faithful to his blog in terms of providing snapshots of our journey every few days. The blog was extremely helpful to me, not in telling me what to write, because it is an entirely different project from a book and has different focus, but in helping me to establish and check timeline. I was surprised at how essential moments and even deep sorrows from my own life had blurred a little in terms of sequence, especially when viewed through tears.
                I also learned something practical. Have you ever read a book in the present day and found punctuation or spelling errors ?   I am not very gracious when I have paid my money and I find simple words clearly misspelled. I discovered how this might happen, and it may have little to do with the author or even the copy editors.  I wrote all of "What I Learned from Daniel" using a particular office document program.  Then, I converted it, and of course, checked it, when I had to convert it to a "Rich text document" for submittal to the publisher. Then the process of copy editing began.  The copy editors made suggestions for often subtle changes, and would return the manuscript to me in rtf format.  I would open it in the program my own system uses.   In one of these exchanges, ALL of the punctuation was wiped from the document.  Another time, when I was telling about one of Daniel's malapropisms when he was a small boy, I found the system had corrected the error !   Well with the error corrected, the reader would not see what Daniel was saying and why it had been so funny !  So, we remain in copy editing hell.   I correct, I send, they review, and make suggestions, and then we square dance once again.  We also have disagreed on some of the corrections. When I write, I believe that God should be capitalized, and that the word "internet" should not. However, Merriam-Webster the reference used by the copyeditors feel differently.   Normally, I am not a spelling or grammerian goddess, and so I just take the corrections, but this time, God is staying capitalized, and the internet will not get country or person status from me.    I very much want this book available on the anniversary of the fourth year since Daniel's passing, and we are running out of time for this to be.   So, lesson one for aspiring authors, make sure that the program in which you write is the same as the writing program in which your publisher receives submissions. It will save a lot of editing headaches, and was strangely not an issue with my first book.
               I also learned that there will never be a day in which reading some of the passages of this book will not bring me to tears. It is not possible to proofread parts of the story of your hardest moments on Earth without a response, and many times, that response will be tears.
              Please know that I am working to get this book out to you as soon as possible. This is a world in which inspiration and a picture of bereavement and life afterward, is so sorely needed.


     Late today I learned that the book is having its cover created and that it is being formatted.  It won't be long now !


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