The photo above is of a bush that is informally called Beauty Berry. Until I saw this photo, I didn’t understand how this nondescript plant got such a name.
I am currently ten chapters into the final polish on The Light Never Lies. This is a line-by-line edit with my final pre-publication reader – my husband Bruce. He brings a couple of valuable skills to this last round of editing – a nose for sniffing out discrepancies and an eye for spotting typos. Can’t complain about that, right?
Apparently, I can’t write that two people snuggled together happily in their bed with only the sound of the fire crackling in the living room of the cabin to disturb their peace. Bruce raises an eyebrow and asks, “Is the cabin on fire?” I dutifully add a word – a fire crackling in the living room stove. Happy now? He nods. And on it goes.
Can a hand held tightly against a heart, shake? Looking at nothing but prairie – sounds sort of negative, doesn’t it? If he doesn’t know when the moment of confrontation is coming, how can he say it will be soon? It surely wouldn’t take them half an hour a day to bring wood down for the bakery oven, would it? If she knows about photography, wouldn’t she already have the answer to that question? Shouldn’t you add something about rhubarb when you describe the look of the garden in spring? Your time frames don’t work on second growth lumber – better move it back to being logged in the late forties, right after the war. It’s a pipeline not just a pipe. What about adding fence panels to the sawmill inventory?
Well, you get the idea. The mind boggles at what will come up as we wade through the remaining forty chapters.
Now, lest you imagine that Bruce’s questioning tone and raised eyebrows send my fingers immediately skittering over the computer keys to make changes – think again. I don’t always go peacefully. But every time I find myself explaining or justifying, I make myself stop and reconsider.
To write fiction is to make a bargain. The reader agrees to suspend his or her reality for a period of time in order to enter into a story. The author agrees to do nothing that will distract the reader from that task. A nagging doubt about whether a tightly held hand can shake does make a difference. It’s like a hangnail snagging on a piece of fabric – an irritation – and irritating readers is never a good idea.
All my pursuits of the last couple of days have been carried out with radio news coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death in the background of my words and thoughts. It seems fitting to end this post with a Mandela quote that speaks to the incredible power of words.
“It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything for us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.” (Nelson Mandela – South Africa, July 2000)