Bloganuary: Has a book changed your life?
So they didn’t specify a book you’ve read or a book you’ve written, did they now? The short answer is yes. Yes, a book has changed my life.
The longer answer is a bit more complicated. Some of you might know that my first (and only traditionally) published novel was The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading. This was a book I co-wrote with my writing BFF Darcy Vance.
Some of you might even know the story behind that story. What you might not know is how Darcy took my “final” draft of GGG (as we referred to it) and started revising it. After I had shelved the novel. Without my knowledge.
Her intentions were nothing but good. She wanted to show me that the novel was marketable. All it needed was some glittery eyeliner (as she called it), like a simple shift from the third person point of view to first*.
Once she revised the first three chapters, she sent them my way.
Reading a story you’ve written in someone else’s voice is, at best, disconcerting. At worse, it can feel like a violation. Darcy was hoping I’d see what she was doing and carry on with the rest of the novel.
And yes, I could see what she was getting at, but I wasn’t into it. I felt the novel had run its course, and it was time to move on to something new. I was, actually, working on something new. So those first three chapters became this awkward thing between us. While it didn’t destroy our friendship—although it certainly could have—there were some cracks in its surface.
Then Darcy’s son was diagnosed with cancer.
Darcy lived in Indiana, and I was in Minnesota. It wasn’t like I could stop by with a hot dish, offer to do the laundry, or help out in any way.
Except. There was a way I could help. I knew it deep down in my gut. There was.
I pulled out those first three chapters and took another look. I decided we could revise Geek Girl together. And if we sold it, Darcy could use her part of the advance to help with medical bills.
Because she was right; Geek Girl did have potential. It had even more once we started working in sync. Darcy changed the point of view (which must have been a slog, but she claimed it was a distraction she needed at the time). We would pass scenes back and forth, refining the prose until it wasn’t my voice or her voice but the main character Bethany’s voice. We worked on it all winter long.
In the spring, while Darcy and her family were seeing specialists and her son was having surgery, I pulled together a query letter. I sent out a couple of waves of queries. We had an amazing response rate, secured an agent, and a year later, a publishing contract.
And all that was wonderful, but not nearly as wonderful as learning to put my ego aside. Not nearly as wonderful as working with Darcy, over IM, in marathon revision sessions. Not nearly as wonderful as having her as a friend, of being able to help her, of learning that her son was cancer-free.
There are days when I miss her so much and wish she were still here. There’s so much I want to tell her. I’m a better writer because of her. I like to think I’m also a better person.
And that’s the story of how a book changed my life.
*This is not simple.