I'm not quite midway through the latest draft (they're overlapping now. Let's call it #47) of my coming-of-age romance -- yes, romance -- for young adults. And it has changed so much from my original version -- or should I say vision -- for this book that I almost don't recognize it sometimes. It used to be pretty dark, filled with angst and flashbacks and depression. Now it's moving forward, developing minor character arcs, finding a bit of humor, and allowing the romance to blossom at a more believable pace. Yet with all these improvements I'm wondering if I'm losing something. Or gaining something. Or selling out. Or buying in. Or getting better. Or making it worse. Or... losing some sort of grip on reality.
I have to keep in mind who my audience is. Young adults. Teens. And, since I live with one, this should be easy. And as I write this, I realize that, as a mom, sometimes I feel the same way about my daughter growing up before my eyes as I do about this novel. It's a painful growing process--sometimes for both of us (although I think more for me. But I'm biased.) I'm pretty sure the ABBA song, "Slipping Through My Fingers" (for a more recent version, pull out your Mamma Mia! soundtrack. Oh, admit it already. You own it!) is a daily refrain in my subconscious. Time is passing so quickly! Am I losing her? Or gaining new depth to our relationship? Am I selling out or buying in? Am I doing right by her? How often will the words "MY MOTHER" be spoken within the context of therapy when she's in her thirties???? Am I becoming a better mom, or just turning into a fuddy duddy who disses her music choices? (I'm sorry, but the Biebs sounds like a girl. He does.) Oh, dear. I am turning into one of those moms. I wanted to be the cool mom! Am I helping her establish a firm foothold for when she goes out into the world on her own, all too soon? Am I losing my grip on reality, or just my grip on my kid?
I've always said that fiction, well, good fiction, mirrors truth. But I'm learning that the process of creating -- or birthing, rather -- that product has much in common with child-rearing.
My daughter and I, and my manuscript and I, are both navigating the uncharted realms of adolescence. Their voices will change. Their form might too, and though I hate to admit it, I am sometimes little more than a spectator to this blossoming process.
But I was also the one who changed the diapers, walked around smelling like baby-urp, and cheered their first steps into the world. Even in this new phase of development, for my daughter and my book, there are still messes to clean up. Sometimes all it takes is a phrase, spoken at the right time. Sometimes more drastic measures are called for. And sometimes I'm the one who needs a time-out to get a grip on reality and to loosen my hold on my babies so they can earn their own wings.
It's a learning process. It's moving toward abundance for one, excellence for the other. It's gaining. Yes, it's gaining.
But it's a gain that rips out a mommy's heart sometimes.
"Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning. Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile..."
lyric quoted from "Slipping Through My Fingers" by Andersson/Ulvaeus