I finished the first draft of The Snake. I wrote the last sentence on my laptop, seated out on the deck on a sunny day at the end of May with the temperature close to ninety. I’d turned on the wall fountain that hangs on my garage overlooking the garden. The sound of splashing water filled the background. Most of our backyard is shaded by a large Japanese maple. Mary Bauer, our landscaper, planted it with tons of shade plants three years ago. This spring everything came into its own. The hostas and all the other plants are lush.
I finished the last sentence, closed the file, turned off the computer, and sat back, looking out toward the backyard fence, but really staring off into space. A lot of thoughts go through your mind when a first draft comes to an end. Exhilaration: I did it! I completed a novel with twenty-two chapters and about two hundred pages. Let-down: I’m wiped out. My brain is tired. An enormous amount of thought and effort went into writing this. It’s been on my mind every waking moment since October. Fear: What if it’s a bust? What if it never gets into print? Have I wasted months of my life? Acceptance: what will be, will be. This is the book I wanted to write. I did the best I know how. Once it’s revised and sent off to my agent, it will be out of my hands. I hope the fates will be kind to it. They haven’t been so nice to the last two novels I’ve written.
I had no idea of where I was going when I started writing this story. All I knew was that I wanted to write a story about a boy who wants a pet snake and that the boy’s name was Omar. I discovered the rest along the way. What fascinates me is that by the time I got to the end, it wasn’t really about having a pet snake at all. Themes that run much deeper kicked in. It became a story about fear, love, and acceptance. Omar comes to realize that he should not be keeping a pet snake if his mom is so frightened of them. At the same time, his mom makes the determination that she is going to conquer her phobia.
Although I didn’t realize it as I was writing it, the final chapter turned out to be a lot like one of my favorite short stories, O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi. You must read that story if you don’t know it. It’s one of the most moving Christmas tales every written. A young man pawns his treasured watch to buy a set of combs for his bride. She, at the same time, cuts her hair and sells it to buy him a watch fob.
The Snake ends on a happier note. Omar decides to return his snake to the breeder for his mom’s sake. His mom decides that Omar must keep his snake so that she can get to know it and overcome her phobia. The characters get what they want and what they need.
All except me, the author. I still don’t have a snake. But change may be on the horizon! We’re off to Houston this weekend to spend some time with our friends Mike and Gayle. (I just talked to another Texas friend of mine this morning. Vicki, who lives in San Antonio, says, ‘They must be awful good friends for anyone to voluntarily go to Houston in June.) Our housesitter, Aidan, will be looking after our cats and feeding my fish. I asked him how he felt about snakes. He answered, “Snakes are cool!”
Score one for me.
The manuscript will sit for several weeks. Then I’ll start revising. I’ll write more about that process as it gets going.