Butterfly Bones to Tumbling Down
Some have asked why I rewrote Amanda's story.
When I wrote Butterfly Bones, I was a newbie and trusted everyone with more than a day in the business. My first editor asked me to remove large sections of Amanda's journey in the manuscript, and I did.
Over the next year, talking with readers, I realized I'd made a mistake in doing so. I didn't want an action-packed thriller with shootouts, car chases, and villains. I was writing one woman's story of overcoming a rough childhood and doing what she believed (and society dictated) she was supposed to do to get her adult life on a normal track; husband, house, pets, solid career… Check. Amanda's journey is a spiral inward, and the cut scene left the story jumping from everything is fine, to nothing is f-ing right, with no middle ground to show why she was losing her mind or having a breakdown.
In hiring the crazy-expensive professional editor, I realized I might have made a mistake when He said, "if there is a gun in the house, it needs to go off…" (It doesn't). "Snorkeling is the same as diving, and you just said she shouldn't dive…" (Snorkeling is not the same as diving). "Brad shouldn't shout, he should whisper his threats…" (Angry men shout, psychos whisper. Brad's not Hannibal Lecter). "I've never heard of a car being required to have a warranty check by a certain date…" (He’s never owned a new car?). "Don't ever name things! You don't want your reader to stop reading the book to look up a cumulonimbus cloud, I had to look it up! Stick to she saw a cloud, a butterfly, a star…" (My bad, but if they don't know a cumulonimbus cloud, I think maybe they should, since it can throw bolts of lightning. And the character likes knowing the names of things, it's her jam). "Children do not act or talk like little Amanda or even Nick..." (??? Shaking head.) "Women do not do this… cut this…" (Seriously? He's mansplaining women to a woman?)
Since I am a woman, one that has experienced diving and snorkeling, traveling and living abroad, been through breakups, owned cars that required warranty checks, can spot and name an Eastern tiger swallowtail twenty yards away, knows when to get her behind off the water or golf course based on the type of a cloud over her head, and oh yeah — once was a child — one who lived in a home with responsible gun and bow owners.
But, being a naïve new author and having spent my hard-earned $2800 for a single editorial pass over my manuscript, I tried to read between the stupid and find the words of wisdom.
He might format a sentence like a god, but his life experiences were lacking and effecting his vision.
So I dried my angry tears, rubbed my thin skin, and cut a lot of the story, then I had it proofread, polished, formatted, and published. And regretted doing it, instantly.
I am learning the hard way to trust my instincts.
One reader wisely asked, "Who's Sunny?" Dang it, we cut her story!
[She's back now in Disruption, the prequel to Tumbling Down.]
Butterfly Bones only received one negative review, and it was from a man who seemed to hate the character, Amanda. He skimmed the book, saw alligators in the story when there aren't any, and basically arrived at all the wrong conclusions throughout, which he boldly shared in a lengthy one-star review. And lastly, he disapproved of my smiling author photo on the back cover. He said, "… she looks like a jogger…" (WTF) ***cringe*** that's someone staring at my image for far too long. But despite that one-star, Butterfly Bones received many 5-star reviews from readers for balance and I was grateful.
Still, deep down, I knew Amanda's story wasn't as good as it could be, because of the damaging cuts and changes I'd made, so I pulled it from the market and rewrote it.
One of my ARC readers for Tumbling Down had read Butterfly Bones when it was first released and wrote a glowing review. She enjoyed the recent changes… the story is deeper and richer for the rewrite. She compared it to Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere, Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, and Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone.
*** that's me, swooning***
I know I'm taking a risk by not taking the first editor's professional advice, but I believe Amanda's story came to me for a reason, and it needs to be told in that same trust the universe sorta way.
This time I will slap a label on it; 'Women's Contemporary Fiction > Psychological.
And a notice: *contains profanity and violence.
If you read it and relate in someway to Amanda's story, please leave a review and drop me a line. I enjoy hearing from readers and how the book might have made them feel.
Being a creative is a weird process; from the first electronic sparks in the gray matter of the creator's brain, it morphs until it spills onto the canvas or the page, and then holy-moly it travels on to a world stage, where the odd brain-pickin's can create a spark in another human's mind... or heart.
Amanda's journey continues from Chicago to a little off-the-grid caye in Belize.