In last week’s post I attempted to talk about the importance of being connected to a community of writers. I was pretty tired when I wrote it and I think it shows, because I don’t think I quite hit the point home, which was...
...a writer needs other writers to be a good writer.
Without the support, input, encouragement, questions, insight and wisdom of other author’s, a writer can get hopelessly lost in their manuscript. We are usually so close to our own work we can’t see it clearly. Even worse, we can be so ‘in love’ with our story we can’t see its faults. That was certainly the case for Saint/Being Jade.
My first big struggle was finding a half-decent ending that didn't feel like an anti-climax or a cop out. In her workshops, Toni Jordan describes the three different world views that dictate novel endings.
- The world is wonderful (Happy Ever After)
- The world is crap (May as well just give up)
- The world is bitter-sweet (My personal favourite)
To affect a bitter-sweet ending a precipitating event must lead the protagonist to a juxtaposition - a Happy-to-Sad / Sad-to-Happy experience - giving them hope tainted with some loss.
With Banjo being dead it seemed that the only way for him to affect his ending was if he acted as a ghost (like Susie in The Lovely Bones when she causes the death of her murderer). I wasn’t comfortable with that as Being Jade isn’t a ghost story per se. And I didn’t want an ending that looked like I’d devised it at my own convenience because the whole thing was too hard. But neither Toni nor I could come up with a reasonable alternative.
In the end it was my wonderful critique partner, Margareta Osborn, and Vicky, a participant in Toni’s workshop, who came up with a perfect solution involving Jade's art (again,to avoid spoilers I'll speak about this broadly). It was brilliant – and so simple. Even better, it linked directly to the inciting incident that caused Banjo to decide he wanted to make the stand that led to his demise. It connected the two big revelations at the end of the novel and gave all the characters an opportunity to get the full picture of Jade (so to speak). And Banjo didn’t have to do anything to make it happen. He just followed his daughters around.
About the same time I received the email from my publisher with structural notes for the manuscript. This was when the title was thrown up in the air, we decided to lose one of Jade’s lovers, and Cassandra, who faded away in the middle of the book, became a much stronger feature in the story. And there was another suggestion I didn’t see coming.
At that stage the book contained three points of view – Banjo, Lissy and Jade. Jade’s voice appeared later in the book, after Banjo’s death. As each of her lovers visited it was she who told her own story of how she met them and what they’d meant to her. I loved Jade. And my publisher wanted me to get rid of her. All 25,000 words of her.
Because Jade is the enigma at the centre of the book. No one understands her, that's the point. To include her voice is to strip some of that mystery away.
This idea took a fair bit of swallowing. It was a huge task and I didn’t want to do it. If I was to lose Jade’s point of view I had to find another way of telling the important parts of her story in someone else’s voice. The only option was Banjo. All I had to do was torture the poor man a little bit more by making him describe the full extent of Jade’s infidelities.
As if he wasn’t already tortured enough.
I reminded myself that 95% of the time editors and publishers are right, because they can see the book in a way the writer can’t. I reminded myself that I wanted this book to be the best book it could be. I asked myself again - who's story is it? And I agreed. Jade’s voice was stripped out of the manuscript (yes, it felt that severe to do it).
I rewrote the entire second half of the book in two months and submitted the final manuscript to Simon & Schuster Australia at midday on 28 November 2013. Jade’s experiences are still in the book, but her voice is now sitting in my archive, waiting for another project perhaps. She’s such a unique character I can’t bring myself to delete them.
Next week the final in Journey to Jade series - 'Tantalising TITLE'...