Bear with me, folks. This is going to be an insanely long post. But I think you'll enjoy every bit of it. Or... if you'd prefer the shortened version, just scroll down and read like the last paragraph or two of this post. I like whole stories, fleshed out and juicy, so I'm writing it all down as such.
In the fall of 2014, I prepared for my very first semester of college. I was thoroughly excited to begin working towards a degree in Creative Writing, and I was also very excited to see how God would grow me during that time. While other girls chose to go to college to look for a husband, I chose to go to further my writing, to deepen my understanding of music, and to venture out on a brand new experience. It was an academic dream, a musical wonder, and an introvert's nightmare.
But I was not going to find a guy.
Honestly, if you asked me at all in the last two years what my plans were, I'd answer, "Four years of school and then graduation in 2018, with, hopefully, really good grades and a book published to help pay for the education and get me further down the road to more publications."
I had my plan. A guy would mess everything up. I'd be distracted. I wouldn't get the grades I wanted. Plus, I never really considered myself the type of girl that a guy would be interested in. I'd had lots (and I mean LOTS) of practice scaring guys away in the years leading up to college, so I figured college would be the same. I wasn't romantic enough to be someone's girlfriend. I was too old-fashioned to do this thing the modern youth called "dating." And because I sat out three years after highschool, I was too old for all the guys in my class.
But that was good. Because I didn't want a guy. All problems solved. Nothing to worry about.
One thing I've learned more than anything else while at school is that God's plans are sometimes completely different than yours.
My sisters and cousins and I made quite a group of friends at college. Since it began with our family, we started out by being known as the "Fam" to a few individuals, but after we added more cousins and I discovered my third cousin in my Computer Fluency class, we were told we were too big to be a family. We were a dynasty. So, we took the name Dynasty, and it's stuck ever since.
The Dynasty grew to include more than just our fellow freshman. By second semester, we'd grown to have a number of sophomores, juniors, and seniors steadily in our mix. From those, my elder sister Beth began a relationship with a wonderful young man, and one of my cousins found another equally wonderful young man. The Dynasty was fondly dubbed a matchmaking ground by some of our core members, and while I was enjoying the matching I saw around me (and I was often accused of being an Emma Woodhouse quite a few times), I scoffed at the idea that a Dynasty guy would ever be interested in me.
In January/February of 2015, the Dynasty grew in prestige as we welcomed our first RA (or resident assistant/dorm hall leader) into our group. His name was Jonathon (or Jed as we all called him since every other guy on campus was named Jonathan). He was the RA on my cousin's hall, and a senior studying history. Needless to say, we felt quite honored with the attention of such a fellow. He easily fit into our mix, playing ping pong after lunch with the guys, sitting for group study in the library, and even going as so far as to agreeing to lead our Dynasty Bible Study every Saturday evening.
Jed was also a great counselor. He spent two summers counseling at camp, and was fully committed to helping people as much as possible. For that reason, he got pretty close to my sister Beth (as well as her boyfriend as the two of them had been friends for a few years before that point) as they all enjoyed counseling talks together. He was a great friend to us all, and although I wasn't particularly close to him, I thoroughly enjoyed arguing baseball with him. If you know me at all, you know I'm pretty much a die-hard New York Yankees fan, and Jed had poorly chosen to root for the Detroit Tigers. If there's a team worse than the Red Sox, it's the Tigers. Sorry, guys. That's just how it is for me. You can defend your team in the comments, if you so choose, but you're not going to change my mind.
In March, a friend began teasing me about Jed. Up until that point, I had seen nothing in him other than a friend and one of those high-born seniors, but the teasing, as simple and quiet as it was, bothered me immensely. I didn't think Jed treated me differently than any other girl on campus, but when my sister started teasing me too, I grew very paranoid.
Did he really like me? I had absolutely no idea. But I wasn't about to stand for it. That would ruin all my plans. Everyone around me could be matched up, but I wasn't about to stand for someone matchmaking ME. Oh, no.
So, I decided to make him not like me. On the slim chance that he did like me, I would soon show him my true feelings. Most of my friends knew that I didn't want a guy during my freshman year, let alone a guy in school. Jed knew that, too. He'd heard me say it. Now, I'd just live out what I said.
I regret to say that my paranoia lead me to treat Jed rather poorly. I tried to insult him whenever sufficient opportunity presented itself. I twisted his words and tried to find points on which to argue with him whenever he tried to talk with me. I called him a "kid" and oftentimes "Daddy" when I felt like he was trying to tell me what to do. I looked for everything possible to disagree with him on. I was rude. In short, I was truly awful to him.
By the end of March, I felt horrible for what I was doing, and I did apologize to him for being so rude. But I was still too paranoid to really change my behavior. Jonathon must NOT like me. I was not going to get a guy. And that was final. The more paranoid I got, the more I determined to do whatever possible to make him not like me.
Shortly before the end of the school year, things kinda came to a slow boil. My two sisters decided to stay at school for the summer and work down there. I already had a job at home and didn't feel like trying to brave the hot summer weather. I wanted to go home. But... since my sisters were staying, I had no ride. I had no way to get home. I had no idea how God would answer me, but I began praying desperately.
I found out that Jed's house is about 6 hours away from ours, and his grandmother's house is about an hour away. How did I find that out? Well, he told me so. When Jed discovered that I was without a ride back, he offered to arrange a ride home with him and his family. They were going to visit his grandmother straight after school ended anyway, so it was a simple thing to take me with them and drop me off at my house on the way up.
Did I want to go? Of course not! His offer only fed my paranoia. But I had no choice. If I wanted to go home for the summer, I had to go with him.
I gave him a reluctant "yes."
But I knew I had to put a stop to the paranoia, otherwise, I'd end up dying on the ride home. I just knew it. How on earth could I spend 12-15 hours (depending on traffic) in the same car with a guy I feared liked me? Something had to give.
So, a week or two before final exams, I took him and my cousin Friday aside. Friday had been my confidant through the entire adventure, and whenever I felt the need to rant about Jed to anyone, I ranted to Friday. He very kindly would listen, and then share some sympathy of sorts to make me feel better. Because of that, I wanted him there when I talked to Jed.
I began by apologizing again for being so rude and horrible to him. But this time I went further and explained WHY I'd been so terrible. Explaining how much I really didn't want him to like me. I word vomited for a full five minutes (perhaps longer) and just spilled everything.
I wrapped up by saying this, "You have been a great friend to me, and I really do want to be your friend, too. But we will never be anything more than friends."
Looking back, I'm never quite sure why I didn't outright ask Jed then if he liked me or not. But I didn't. And he sat quietly through my whole spiel and forgave me. He FORGAVE me. And said we could just go on being friends. Then he smiled, and it was over.
Finals came and went. His family arrived for his graduation, and I got to meet them all and play soccer with them (he has three brothers) before riding home.
Since Jed was an RA, he couldn't leave campus until his entire hall was clean. And... let's face it. Boys aren't necessarily clean to begin with. Boys packed three in a room, thirty to forty on a hall, really aren't neat at all. Jed's hall was a mess. And he had to clean it all before he was allowed to leave. So, Jed's brothers, my sisters, a few other friends, and I all teamed up to help him out. I never expected to spend the end of my freshman year at school cleaning the third floor of a guys' dorm for three hours, but it was fun. It also gave me a chance to interact more with his brothers.
We were supposed to leave campus at 8am, but we didn't pull out until 11am. But we had so much fun in the car. I don't know about you guys, but I really enjoy car trips. As long as the people I'm riding with aren't meatloaves and sit there or sleep the whole time. With the paranoia about Jed basically all gone, I just relaxed and enjoyed myself. His family was awesome. Even when at 4:30 in the morning... when we FINALLY pulled into my driveway.
Jed got to meet my parents and siblings, and then he was gone with his family -- off to visit his grandmother. I remember thinking as they drove away that if he hadn't been on the absolute bottom of the list of guys that I'd ever consider dating, he really wasn't that bad. I really like his family, and I almost felt inclined to give him a second chance.
Then I recovered myself, decided to take a nap, and enjoy my summer at home.
Days passed. Home was amazing. I missed my two sisters still at school, but I loved being with my parents and other siblings.
I'd been home for a few weeks before my mom started saying some interesting things.
"Oh, Kiri, what if there was a guy who called Dad about you?"
At first, I didn't think much of it. Yeah, sure. Who cares? No guy would seriously ever do that.
But she kept saying it.
"What if there was a guy who called Dad about you?"
It was the middle of June when I got fed up with it. The next time she said it, I barely let her finish before saying, "Jonathon called, didn't he?"
My mom, bless her dear heart, has never been good at keeping certain secrets. "Well, I'm not supposed to tell you."
So I said it again. More direct this time. "Jonathon called."
"Yeah," she said with a sigh and smile.
I couldn't believe it! After everything I'd been through with this guy, he had the nerve to CALL my DAD!
It took a while for that to process. When I came back to my senses, I asked my dad for details of the phone call.
Jed had called near the end of March -- right around the time I'd apologized to him the first time. He'd gotten my dad's number from my sister Beth (who was all too happy to help) and wanted to talk with my dad just to let him know that he was interested in me. But he knew that I didn't want a boyfriend and he wanted my dad's permission to be my friend and get to know me better for the time being. In response to that, my dad basically told him, "She's stubborn. She's a slow mover. And she's vehemently opposed to dating. Good luck."
My whole summer turned upside-down. So, Jed DID like me. How that was even earthly possible, I had no clue. I was pretty certain that I didn't like him, and I had absolutely no idea what to do with the knowledge that he liked me. My family, however, knew what to do. They teased me. Mercilessly. Families are good about stuff like that.
Near the end of July (still 2015), I became extremely worried about my finances. My job for the summer was not as profitable as I'd hoped, and there was a chance that I wouldn't be able to make it back to school in the fall. A friend working down at school for the summer contacted me and said that there was an opening in his department if I wanted to come down to school a month early and work. I jumped on it, began making plans to return, and tried to contact my friend's boss to confirm the job.
How was I going to get back, you ask? Well, conveniently, Jed had to go back to school a month early to begin work and a graduate degree in seminary. Yes, he was a senior and had graduated, but he was going to be back at school for another three years pursuing graduate work. So, trembling, I called him and asked if it'd be possible to get a ride back down with him when he left.
He sounded completely blown away that I'd ask that, but he said, "Absolutely."
After that, a quick weekend put everything into place. I built all my plans, began packing, and looked at my ride back with anxious eyes. I was okay, but I still wasn't sure what to do with this Jed who'd called my dad about me. Everything was perfect.
Except for the fact that I couldn't get a hold of my friend's boss to confirm the job. Turns out, he was a rather busy man, and it took me two days to find him and get him on the phone. I introduced myself and asked after the job, but he cut me short with, "Oh, sorry, I forgot I already had people trained for that opening, so I won't be needing you after all." Then he hung up.
I was crushed. It was like someone pulled the entire world out from under my feet. I didn't get the job. And I had absolutely no idea what to do next.
But Jed and his parents were still expecting me to ride down with them. His mom called me that afternoon, and I managed to hold it all together as I explained the situation to her. Jed called me a few minutes after that, and I repeated what happened. He listened quietly, and then just asked, "Kirsten, are you okay?"
That got me. Boy, did it get me. I almost started crying. After such a disappointment, I couldn't believe that he would care enough to call me and make sure I was okay.
He even called back three times that same day, trying to arrange a job for me with another department on campus so I could still come down early. He called THREE times. He bent over backwards to try to talk with some of his bosses to get me a position. I didn't get the job, but I was completely amazed that he'd even try. No friend had ever done something like that for me before. It baffled me. And it really put him up in my estimation. Even after I had thoroughly friend-zoned him and had given him no hope, he still proved himself a true friend.
What a guy, huh?
No worries. We're close to the end here soon.
Meanwhile, my family was still teasing me about him. My sister and another friend called from school one afternoon in early August and gave me more than I wanted about the infamous Jonathon. They went on for so long about him, that I finally kinda blew up on the phone.
"That's it!" I remember saying. "I've had it up to here with this kid since I've had to hear about this from everyone except HIM, and I'm this close to just calling him tonight and having it out with him!"
That encouraged my sister and friend WAY too much. "Oh, you should! And guess what? It's his birthday. That would totally make his day!"
Me and my big mouth. There was no way to get out of it. It took me a while that evening to build up the courage to call him, knowing all the while that my sister and friend would have a heyday if I tried to back out of it.
Jed was surprised that I called. Very surprised. I made small talk for a few minutes, wishing him a happy birthday, asking how work was going, etc. And then blunt me just came out and said it.
"So, Jonathon, when were you going to start being honest with me?"
He knew exactly what I was talking about.
He told me that he planned on talking with me and telling me how much he liked me when I got back to campus at the end of August. But since I called him a few weeks early, he gave me his talk then. Turns out, the whole while I was being horrible to him and trying to get him to dislike me, he was only liking me the more. Me as a spitfire was more endearing than anything else. Go figure.
Well, from that point on, we spent a semester just getting to know each other, just as friends. I found out that during the summer while my mom was busy asking, "What if there was a guy who called Dad about you?" Jed was busy reading through my entire blog. Yes, that's right. He read MY ENTIRE BLOG. And he also found time to beta-read my Cinderella novel, Secret of the Hazel Tree. AND HE LIKED IT!
By December of last year, he was easily one of my best friends. He and his family came up to visit my family during Christmas break, and we had a blast.
When he first talked to me, he promised me that he wouldn't date me the first semester of my sophomore year. So, second semester, when I returned after Christmas, I was walking to dinner with him and my two sisters our first full day back on campus and he was acting cheeky. While walking down one sidewalk towards the Dining Common, he suddenly turned and began walking completely in the wrong direction. I wanted dinner but I also wanted to walk with him, so I turned to follow him. My sisters didn't want to put up with his shenanigans, so they left us and continued on to dinner.
Then Jed turned and suddenly sat on a bench -- one of the benches that we'd sat on for many of our talks during the previous semester. I sat next to him, completely confused.
"Uh, dinner?" was all I could say.
But he wasn't ready to leave yet. "Kirsten, I was thinking about doing something tonight," he said. "And I'd really like to go do it with my girlfriend."
That didn't sink in right away. I did a genuine double-take. And was speechless for a good two minutes.
Then I said yes.
And that, folks, is the true account of how I got around to dating the most wonderful but exasperating twenty-two year old on the face of the planet. He's exactly eight days older than me. He loves the Lord and has a great heart for ministry.
Unfortunately, he's still a Tigers fan. We still quibble about that, but so far, that's been really the only thing we disagree on. I'm not worried. I know he'll get his heart right one day and root for the Yankees. *winks*
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Friday, June 10, 2016
Let me tell you a secret...
Whoever tells you editing is simple and fun... don't listen to them.
Because it's not.
It is, more than likely, the hardest part about writing a book.
This summer I have made it my great project to edit Secret of the Hazel Tree and hopefully look into publishing it... soon. Honestly, I have no idea what the Lord has in store for this book of mine, because I've been looking into publishing for the last two years or so, and every time He's said "no." It hasn't been an easy journey, but I know it's been one that I need.
Every book needs editing, and mine is no exception. Seriously. Unless you're a Jedi or something amazing like that, you're not going to put down a perfect story the first time around. I should know. I've tried it. More than once. And with every single story, I've had to go back through and edit it.
It's a rough process. Large-scale editing, to me, is like trying to alter the events of history after everything in your novel is over. Small-scale editing is like walking into a swarm of mosquitoes. It won't kill you, but sufferin' cats, does it hurt! Working through your story will throw back every bad thing that's in the novel, and it's your job to fix it. I'm thoroughly convinced that writing and editing together is one of the toughest chores the human brain will ever face.
When I finished the first draft of Secret of the Hazel Tree on April 30, 2014, the story stood at 198,000 words. One hundred and ninety-eight thousand words. I'd written almost 200K in 5 months. It was phenomenal. I felt like I'd just conquered the world.
In reality, I'd just begun the quest to conquer a realistic, magic-free Cinderella mystery.
Two years later, I'm still editing. Granted, being at school has really thrown a wrench in the works as I really don't have the time Sept-May to actually take hours to sit down and work at my stories. Hazel Tree has taken a back seat time and time again.
Last summer, I spent a good deal of time tackling some of the big-scale problems. Continuity with characters, missing details in the revelation scenes at the end, scenes that didn't add to the story as a whole, etc. I rewrote my first chapter almost five times. And I'm still not completely satisfied with it. As the first chapter, it's gotta grab people's attention and pull them completely, hook-line-and-sinker, into the story. I wanted readers to absolutely fall in love with my main character from the very beginning. I wanted it to taste fresh, but I still wanted it to have that old-fashioned fairy tale flavor.
Last summer, within adding things, fixing things, deleting things, I edited out 10,000 words in three months.
This summer, I've been going through chapter by chapter, reading, rewriting, editing, deleting... you name it. If it's related to writing, I've probably done it within this last month. I've gone 38% of the way through my manuscript, and I've already edited out about 12,000 words.
Currently, SotHT is at 177,139 words. So, it's still long. I really haven't changed anything huge. I haven't cut millions of scenes, nor deleted any characters. I just discovered that I'm wordy. Really wordy. (This blog post should be proof enough for that.) It's still the same story, but I've been hard at work editing. And it hurts.
But that's okay!
Editing is supposed to hurt. My dad's favorite thing to say to me is this...
"Never fall in love with your writing. The moment you do that is the moment you cease to grow as a writer."
If you're happy with what or how you write, you'll never get better. Satisfaction with "good enough" will never become excellence. Editing is part of the natural process towards becoming a better writer. Editing is double-checking your work, scrutinizing word choices, questioning character traits, and doubting plot progression. If you can't respect and believe your story, chances are your readers won't either.
|I love this quote!|
For those of you who are die-hard long novel lovers like me, no fear. I'm not working to destroy my Cinderella and push it into the standard young adult length. I want my story to speak for itself and I'll allow it to do that in any length it chooses.
Editing isn't fun. It isn't easy. But I can promise that, if faithfully pursued, it can be entirely rewarding. It'll make your story better.
And it'll make you a better writer.
Try it sometime.