I finished The Midwife’s Confession yesterday and John and I are going to see Wicked this evening to celebrate. Yeah! The last month of writing a book is sheer torture; there seems to be no way around it. Every time, I tell myself I’ll figure out a way to prevent that last month from being such a killer, but I have yet to find the cure. Something miraculous always happens during that last month, though: the characters grow into themselves, the details fill out the story, and most significantly, I finally start to think I’ve written a really good book. Up until that last month, I’m never sure.
As I did when I finished The Lies We Told, I thought I’d share a paragraph or two from the first draft as well as from the final (fifth) draft so you can see the transformation. I do this to encourage those new writers among you. While you may be writing a pile of garbage in the beginning, you can eventually end up with a real book!
This book had two major challenges in addition to the usual task of telling a good story. One, I decided halfway through to change the four points of view from third person to first. You’ll notice below that Emerson changes to first person in the final draft. I hope you’ll feel closer to her that way–I certainly did. But making that sort of change in a 400+ page manuscript was exhausting and tedious! Whew. Second, three of the characters are women around 40 years of age with similar backgrounds and values, which made it difficult to give them distinctive voices. I think I succeeded, but that is one thing I’ll still be working on in revisions.
Speaking of revisions, what happens next is that my editor and agent will read the book. They will then make their suggestions, which will force me to take to my bed for about twenty-four hours before I pull myself together and start fixing whatever they think needs fixing. But for now, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the sense of accomplishment.
So here are the two examples. I am not giving anything away by telling you that the midwife in the story, Noelle, kills herself very early in the book. Emerson is her sister, who hasn’t heard from Noelle in a couple of days and is worried about her. Enjoy!
Emerson unlocked the door and walked into the kitchen.
“Noelle?” She shut the door behind her, hitting the lock for no reason she could name. Just unnerved. She walked toward the bathroom. A slip in the shower maybe. But then why would she have told Lizzie to take care of Patches? The bathroom was small, spotless and empty. From the hallway, through the open door of the bedroom, she saw her. She lay on her back, her hands folded across her ribcage, still and quiet as though she were meditating. But her waxen face, the line of pill bottles, told her something different. It was impossible. Impossible. Emerson fell to her knees at the side of the bed, grabbing Noelle’s cold lifeless hand. “Noelle,” she whispered. “Why? Why?”
The key was caked with dirt and I wiped it off on my t-shirt, a sure sign I didn’t care about a thing except finding out what was going on with Noelle. I unlocked the door and walked into the kitchen. “Noelle?” I shut the door behind me, turning the lock because I was starting to feel paranoid. Her purse lay like a floppy pile of leather on the table and her car keys rested on the counter between the sink and the stove. Patches’ food and water bowls were upside down on the counter on top of a dishtowel. The sink was clean and empty. The kitchen was way too neat for my sister. Noelle could mess up a room just by passing through it.
I walked into the postage stamp of a living room, past the crammed bookshelves and the old TV we’d given her a few years ago when we bought the big screen. Past the threadbare brown sofa. A couple of strollers sat on the floor in front of the TV and three car seats were piled on top of some cartons, which were most likely filled with Stork Village donations. More boxes teetered on top of an armchair. I was definitely in my sister’s world. On the wall above the sofa were framed pictures of Jenny and Jack, Gracie and Cleve and Leo. The kids of the Galloway Girls. Noelle’s family.
I walked past the first of the two bedrooms, the one she used as her office. Like the living room, it was bursting with boxes and bags and her desk was littered with papers and books . . . and a big salad bowl filled with lettuce and tomatoes.
“Noelle?” The silence in the house was creeping me out. A slip in the shower? But why would she have told Libby to take care of Patches? I reached her bedroom, and through the open door, I saw her. She lay on her back, her hands folded across her ribcage, still and quiet as though she were meditating, but her waxen face and the line of pill bottles on the night table told me something different. My breath caught behind my breastbone, and I couldn’t move. I wasn’t getting it. I refused to get it. Impossible, I thought. This is impossible.
(PS Margo, thank you for reminding me of this “I’m finished!!!” photograph of Keeper and myself!)
The Lies We Told is now available for preorder. Watch for my online booksigning the first week of June!