The Life of a Novel

I’m old school.  I’ll admit it.

I like to read actual books, turning paper pages.  And I like to handwrite the rough drafts of my stories or novels.  There’s something that just feels more tangible about it that way.   I don’t think I’ll ever own a Kindle and I don’t think I’ll be found writing in a coffee shop on a laptop rather than a legal pad.   It’s just the way I am.

There’s also something intimate about loaning someone a book.  Handing off pages of printed words that made an impact on you in some way and believing that it will impact that other  individual as well.  Though loaning a book isn’t always loaning.  Taking it from your bookshelf and setting it into another pair of hands never comes with the expectation of receiving it back.  And that’s okay with me.  As long as it gets read and passed on to people who will appreciate the story and the passion that’s behind it, that’s all that really matters.

That being said, I once loaned a book to a friend, knowing that she would really enjoy it.  A few months later when I had a few people over for dinner, she slipped a book onto the shelf, telling me that she was returning what I’d loaned to her.  I didn’t think anything of it until I caught a glimpse of it on the shelf sometime later.

I joked about having never seen it before (because it was a different printing of the same book that I had loaned her), but she was insistent.  Enough so that I could tell how uncomfortable she felt about it, so I let it drop.  I wanted to tell her that she didn’t have to replace it if she’d lost it, that loaning a book is a potential gift in my mind, but instead I played dumb for the sake of her feelings and slid the brand new copy back onto the shelf,

What you do want back though is any copy of your own writing that you loan out.  Trusting another individual to read a rough draft of what you have in progress is a difficult thing – at least it is for me – and is something only for a very select few.  I once loaned a copy of what was my novel-in-progress to a girlfriend, letting her in to that extremely select and treasured group.  It was a hundred pages of computer paper printed single-spaced, put in plastic sleeves and held together in a white binder.  Yes, I remember it vividly.  It was quickly read and I received wonderful feedback – the kind you can only receive from someone who is passionate about reading your work and wants the best for it – wanting the warts removed and the story to sing.  And this copy stayed with her while I made all of the revisions on the computer.

Months went by and I didn’t get it back.  I didn’t give it any thought.   More months went by and…yep, you’ve probably already guessed…  We broke up.  Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, right?

I didn’t care about getting my shirts back, or CD’s or DVDs, or anything silly like that.  But the novel, my inner thoughts, two years of my blood put to paper…?  That was something that I didn’t want out there somewhere completely lost to me.  More months went by.  Awkward conversations occurred, then civil conversations occurred, but still the novel wasn’t returned.  Christmas came around and I hoped it might be returned as a present, but it didn’t find its way to my tree.  The months continued to pass and it was never able to find its way home.

In the spring we talked and she told me that she had thrown it out.  And, as much as that hurt, I wondered.  Wondered if it was true, wondered if that was something she was capable of doing, wondered if there was a part of her that might have valued it enough that she had wanted to keep it as a memento instead.

I’d like to think that it’s in a box under her bead, or packed away in her closet.  At best maybe it’s in a drawer in her bedside table, at worst maybe under boxes of tangled Christmas tree lights in her garage.

But if not, and it’s truly piled under tons of garbage in a trash heap somewhere, at least I can hold on to this…  The pages are all in plastic sheets, so that story will live on forever…..

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