snow shoes

This morning I made my first trek in the snow with my favorite Christmas present, a pair of LL Bean snowshoes. The light purple aluminum frames didn’t have much of a challenge in the four-inches of snow that covers the ground, and I found myself thinking about my current novel and the editing process.

Vermont is expecting several inches of white stuff by midday tomorrow, so today’s trek was a first pass, a trial run. Just like my first draft of Aesop Lake. When I wrote it in 2013 during NANOWRIMO my goal was to just get it done. Participants in the National Novel Writing Month know the goal for the month-long event is word count, fifty thousand words in thirty days. I’ve participated twice. In 2008 I maxed out at twenty-six thousand words, however I did write a story that interested me enough to finish, edit, and publish in 2013, Stone Sisters I “won” NANOWRIMO in 2013, with not only a fifty-three thousand-word count, but also a novel, Aesop Lake that I am excited to edit.

Snowshoeing on four-inches of thin snow is like a first draft. There is not enough material to cover the ground completely. Sticks and rocks poke through along the path, and while you can make your way down the path, you know that more snow, like more description, more backstory, more dialogue and character development will keep you from snagging your snowshoe on some exposed branch that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. On the bright side, the first draft, much like the first snowshoe in such meager conditions is a fairly solitary event. Just my husband, our dog and myself braved the woods this morning, so it was quiet, and contemplative. The first draft has that same feeling of solitude, and safety in knowing that no one else will ever see it this way. The clichés and the horrendous grammar will be history by the time the first human lays eyes on your newly created masterpiece.

Second drafts require a significant amount of sculpting, rearranging, cutting, creating, and editing to turn that scant four-inch snow covered trail into a deeply layered plot line that will carry the reader into the world you have created, without fear of misplaced sticks or plot holes.

Once we came to the end of our route, on the dock of a pond, I stood and listened to the wind in the hibernating trees, the breath of my husband, the jingle of our dog’s collar as she dashed through the woods. It takes focused attention to know when you have reached your destination. I’m not there yet with Aesop Lake, too many scenes are still unfolding.

As we retraced our steps, I noticed the patterns we created, their symmetrical twists and turns, like the lovely bits of my story that I want to hold on to. Editing in fits and bursts as I do, because I have a full-time career, a family, a second job, and choir, I sometimes worry that I will lose the essence of the story. I read and re-read chapters, trim and expand as needed, all the while hoping the beautiful elements will shine through, like the sparkling ice crystals in the morning light. Following my own steps back home assures me I will always find my way back to the heart of my story.

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