Hello my friends! I apologize I have been so quiet, but I have been on a furious editing pace, trying to get Draft 2 of Ripple done by the end of June. Ripple is more than 450 pages long, or 122,000 words, and I started draft two June 1st . . . so you get the idea.
I had a hard week, to be honest. Some difficult things went down, and I felt like hell on Friday. Pure hell. Instead of surrendering to the fit of melancholy, I took my three kids to the pool and swam a quick 800 meters during break, and this got me thinking. Before my accident in 2009, I was swimming two to three miles a day, and daydreaming about swimming the five miles across the Chesapeake Bay. The bay, however, is not enough. I want to swim across the English Channel.
Now, I get these bright ideas often, and my husband replies the same way each time. He gets a gleam in his eye and his mouth turns up in one of his trademark half-smiles. And then he replies, “Sounds great, Cutie,” or something sweet like that, and I grin at him. That is how we ran two marathons together in 2011. This is how my man and I roll. And it might be what I love about him the most: I come up with some crazy adventure, some faraway dream, and he figures out how we can make it come true.
This is how I keep my “black dog,” as Winston Churchill called his depression, at bay. I dream. I dream big. And with that dream, that goal in mind, I begin to work toward it, and with my energy focused on the future, my present troubles weigh on me less.
I don’t know when I will swim the English Channel, but it reminds me of the challenges I have both created and am overcoming in the process of writing Ripple. This is not an easy first novel by any stretch of the imagination. For one thing, a lot of characters live in its pages. In addition, these characters move and interact at an increasing gallop throughout its pages and the topics addressed are weighty and emotion-packed.
I wanted to share with you what the editing process looks like. For your amusement, what follows is Draft 2, Page 1 of Ripple. As you will see from the excerpt of Draft 1, page 1 of Ripple, almost nothing carried over from the first draft.
“The trial is in a week, Ashtray,” thundered Helen Thompson, slamming the glass door shut so hard the frame shimmered and vibrated. The young associate nicknamed “Ashtray,” from Baker, Pitts, Kenzey & Moore scurried out of the hotel’s conference room as Helen’s words echoed into the corridor behind him. “I needed the witness list two hours ago! If you can’t get it to me in the next fifteen minutes, you might as well grab a cab to the airport and catch the redeye back to D.C.”
Helen glowered, imperious, her auburn hair and bellowing tone resembling Queen Elizabeth I. If Queen Elizabeth could make a man move before finishing a sentence, Helen could make him run.
Her eyes cut a slow arc around the conference room, searching for anyone who was not meeting her expectations. One hand still on the gold-plated door handle, Helen made eye contact with a bemused, dark-haired senior associate named Carl Hansen, who had worked with Helen for enough years to shrug off her frequent explosions.
Helen waved her hand. “Seriously, I don’t give a shit what’s going on in his personal life. These pimple-faced recent graduates don’t pull their weight.” Helen stomped from one end of the room to another, her 5’6” frame appearing much taller because of her ramrod posture, black custom suit and Manolo Blahniks heels. A senior partner at one of the top law firms in the country, Helen stood astride the legal profession. She did not suffer fools and within that category remained all recent law school graduates until they proved their mettle with years of hard-nosed toil.
As you will see, not much of Draft 1 remained after my writing partner, Renée Schuls-Jacobson and I redlined it. And for your amusement, I attach a picture I found on Facebook that channels Helen Thompson’s personality. The only difference is the hair color of the speaker.
“Ms. Thompson?” Helen held up one hand impatiently and continued upbraiding her youngest associate, Alex Peterson. “Seriously, Alex, I need that witness list and I needed it a half-hour ago. I don’t give a shit what’s going on in your personal life. Get me that fucking list NOW!” The second-year associate jumped up from the conference room table, his shirt untucked from his suit pants, tie askew, and almost careened into the hotel employee who stood at attention with a phone in his hand. “Excuse me Ms. Thompson for the interruption, but the Judge’s clerk phoned and asked to speak directly to you.”
“Hmm, the judge’s clerk huh,” Helen muttered. “We don’t usually get calls from chambers. Are you sure you got that right?” The employee nodded politely and Helen thought about the studied good manners of all the employees at this swanky Chicago hotel and wondered if they went home at night and told their families what assholes the attorneys from her crack legal team were.
Inwardly she chuckled and realized she didn’t care. At $500 a night, they can get it together to call us “Ma’am” and “Sir” and even open the doors for us. It’s all covered in the rate. “Yes Ma’am. The clerk gave me the direct line for what he called, um,” he glanced at his notepad and continued, “Judge’s Chambers, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.” Helen’s eyes opened a little wider and she nodded and Carl Min, her crack senior associate, “Right, thank you so much. I suppose that phone is for me?” Helen strode across the room and pivoted, one hand gesturing as the other reached out for the phone. “Yes Ma’am,” the employee replied, and with one hand one the door handle, waited for Helen to take hold of the phone before he let go and unobtrusively left the room as quietly as he had entered it.
Dreams, big dreams, take time and work and pain to bring to fruition. Like running a marathon or swimming across the English Channel, there is nothing easy about editing Ripple. And yet I am having the time of my life.
© 2012 E. L. Farris