Writing when you “ain’t quite right.” Part 4

I’m told that readers feel an achievement of completion followed closely by missing the anticipation of reading a book. My experience with reading is that the pain has finally stopped and now I’m free to ask someone what I just read. That said, I did experience readers remorse, from a different vantage point. As I write this final part about my journey to find a reader, it’s the denouement of more than the quest.

First, there was the test, and the test said, “you ain’t quite right.” Second, there was the 1st dream realized—a college degree. Third, there was a 2nd dream to fulfill, to be a published author.  And the first step on the journey to that dream required pitiful, persistent begging followed closely by a trip to California.

Which brings me to the point of Part 4: FINDING THE RIGHT WAY FOR THE RIGHT HELP TO HELP ME WRITE.

My sister and I spent at least a week trying to figure out how we were going to work together. At one point, I feared for her sanity.

I’ll start with the ways that didn’t work, and why.

1. Read a book. Imagine alphabet soup. Imagine little teenie tiny words that like to roil around, greatly resembling alphabet soup. That’s what happens to me at times when I try to read. At other times, the letters turn into unrecognizable pieces and parts. No matter what shape the letters take, it’s still hard without a computer text reader even on a good day. So…she referred me to her iPod. I fell asleep several times listening to a very popular book about which I remember only a castle and a woman with red fingernails.

2. Write a summary. I struggled for hours over writing one only to have my sister lament, “I don’t get the point.”

Both of us frustrated, we began another tactic.

Our first try didn’t work so well. She would make corrections in the printed manuscript so that I could do what I wanted to do with it later. I asked what the little curly q was by a word. Her answer? “It means ‘delete.’”

“What’s the difference between this curly q and that one?” I asked.

“What?” She demanded. How was I supposed to know it wasn’t the same squiggle?

“How about reading the manuscript aloud?” I asked. “You can edit as you read it to me. I’ll type…”

Words cannot effectively convey the poignant silence or the face that looked as if I had just assaulted her mouth with a super sour jawbreaker.

Remember how I told you that as good as she is at editing, she hates it with a passion and it’s like asking a germ-a-phobic to wallow around in the sewer? Well, I had this great visual for you, but out of respect for my sister I won’t dive deeper into that particular squalor. She said it was too crude—even for her. (Bear in mind, she’s no stranger to crude. She was the one who stuck straws up her nose in a Chinese restaurant to embarrass a 13 year old boy who had been trying to embarrass her. It was quite effective, too).

Soooo….she read my own book to me line by frigging line, stopping to make comments to me. As she was discussing, I was writing on the computer what had to be changed WHERE it had to be changed in a language I could understand.

Using a mechanical text reader didn’t provide me with the deep sighs through the boring parts, the groans about never-ending dialogue that does nothing to further the plot or give useable information about the characters AND…there were plenty of compliments to make the criticisms worthwhile.

I would be up at 4am making the corrections from the previous day, writing while I overlooked the mountains around Palm Springs as they reflected a glorious sunrise, an event that meant my sister would be up soon. Guilt doesn’t have to come from persistent begging—it can be induced in my sister by watching someone working hard as she’s considering which cereal to pour into a bowl for an easy breakfast.   For the first time I can remember, my sister said she was impressed! Not just with my potential as a writer, but my tenacity, persistence, my ability to take constructive criticism with joyful gratitude.

Why do I end this 4-part blog with the heavy heart of a reader who has just finished the best book of her life?  Anyone who has a sibling can tell you that the place in which we find ourselves in the family structure cements us there for the remainder of our lives. For the first time in my life, my sister didn’t see me as a fragile, disabled sibling that needed to be taken care of, nor did I see her as the older sister who would never accept me as anything other than “ain’t quite right.”   We were equals, sharing in an experience that has changed our viewpoint of one another.

When my sister read the parts I had re-written, she said it reminded her of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I knew this 3 legged horse was out of the gate! Now, all I have to do is hobble over the finish line and dream number 2 of my life will be complete—to be a published novelist.

Through some quirk of genetics, my sister and I together are something we can’t be separately. If a great writer also has to be a great reader, I may never be a Hemingway, King, or Asimov but with my sister’s help, the two of us might equal one writer. Maybe together we can create something that “is quite right.”