It seems that I am constantly in edits. The first part of the Nature Walker Trilogy, Wanderer, took me fourteen years to write. Now, mind you that was not fourteen years of writing every day or anything crazy like that. It was fourteen years of write for a while, put the manuscript away for a while, take it back out and fall back in love with Sath and Gin for a while, rinse, repeat. This face, rendered via Adobe Fuse CC, was always in my mind just like that, with that expectant look on her usually freckled face. She is still in my mind, almost constantly, repeating her mantra:
You aren’t done yet.
Finish my story.
Get the manuscript back out.
Sath and I miss you.
I always do as she asks, being the ever obedient author and alter ego. Even when I was working on other things (Proud Racer, Clobberpaws,
and The Baskervilles-
coming soon –
just to name a few) or not even close to a Nano month of any sort, she was always there – I don’t want to say nagging, because that’s negative, but yeah, she was nagging. She’s still there, wondering what is taking me so long.
A funny thing happened in the more recent years, though – thanks to a beta reader of mine who carried on his own nagging campaign. He said that he wasn’t buying how I was writing Gin. He said that after everything she had been through, to come out the other side still bowing and scraping and apologizing seemed inconsistent. I raged against that feedback for a long time. Fought it. Ignored it. But he kept on me about it, and as much as I hate to ever admit it, he was right.
I’ve come back to thinking about all of that in light of the recent political climate and the #metoo movement. At first, I was afraid that I should put a trigger warning for domestic abuse on the books because there are bits in there that are tough for ME to read, and I wrote them. No, said my Wise Beta Reader, people need to see that she was in those places and experienced those things and came out of it with her dignity and her mercy still intact. She came out with a better sense of who she was – what is more inspirational than that? She is an example of a woman that was bent to the point of breaking – but who never broke.
That isn’t who she was initially. It was a long time before she stopped quaking in fear at every stern expression or jumping out of her skin at loud noises (like Qatu knuckles cracking). She would burst into tears at the drop of a hat as much as she would the drop of a weapon. Be glad that he convinced me that she needed to show the strength that she had – I’m not sure she would be worth reading otherwise.
More importantly, though, it was through those conversations that I realized it wasn’t only Gin who needed to be stronger, and tougher, and more authentic. That isn’t who I was – or who I am, depending on the day, if I’m honest. But again, without knowing it, Wise Beta Reader was right – Gin is who I want to be, and who I’m sure many others in my situation want to be as well, and I hope she resonates with them as much as she does with me. Everyone’s situation is different, obviously, but if Gin can give someone the strength to just take one step at a time in the direction of safety, then she is doing the work – I am doing the work.
I also hope that this doesn’t make Wise Beta Reader turn into Full Of Himself Beta Reader, but you never know. I suppose he has earned it.