I thought doing a second draft of the first draft of “Blue Cottage” would be pretty easy. Fat chance!. First, the first draft is bad in parts. No, let me re-phrase that. It’s pretty bad. No, that’s still not right. The first draft is just god-awful. I can think of other ways of describing it but I’m pretty sure you get the gist. I’m sure somebody out there in there in the cybershere is saying to themselves “The author is always the harshest critic”. And that may be true. But I’m having a heck of good time whipping it into shape.
See that picture at (or near) the top. That’s where I spent the summers of 1964 to the mid-seventies. My parents demolished the existing cottage and built this one. Only it wasn’t called Blue Cottage. It was called many things but never, ever, not even once, that name. That’s one I made up all on my own. Now, the main character in Blue Cottage is Cassandra (Cassie) Carter. Everything else revolves around her or concerns her. She’s a radio reporter who creates a scandal, is suspended indefinitely (not fired), and is told to get out of town until the scandal blows over. She retreats to Blue Cottage which was willed to her by her late Aunt Heather. Watching an old VHS tape her aunt recorded prior to her death she learns the nearby towns are populated with a cast of characters all somewhere between eccentric and nuts. She’s also told the guy next door is a reclusive author who is getting over a very bad, and very short lived marriage. When Cassie watches the tape she learns her aunt was a bit of a matchmaker.
I had a big problem with Cassie. In the first draft she was the primary narrator. I tried switching that to an anonymous narrator for draft 2 because Cassie came off sounding like a bit of a chatterbox. I wasn’t totally satisfied with the way the new narrator sounded and reverted back to chatterbox Cassie. I still wasn’t satisfied with the way Cassie sounded so I’m back to the anonymous narrator. I also remembered something. When something lifechanging / traumatic happens to a woman it often helps to talk with another woman. In the first draft Cassie had no female friends to speak of so in the second draft I created Carol Jenkins. Cassie met Carol when they were both at journalism school. Carol landed a job at a radio station different from Cassie’s but in the same city. They are so close they regard the other as a sister, and the other one is always there when times get tough. Cassie is also a rabid reader of romance novels and Carol discovers this when she arrives the evening Cassie is suspended. Carol arrives with comfort food which consists of Haagen-Dazs mint-chocolate ice cream, Lowenbrau Beer and four bags of Oreos. Carol essentially provides an ear for Cassie who is surprised at the mess she created.
In Chapter 3 Cassie discovers she has feelings for a man she has never met. Her next door neighbor is Peter James Christopher. He’s an author of three books of fiction but only the first two were wildly popular. The third just didn’t have the zest and enthusiasm the first two did. Peter has also been married before. After his divorce from the “she-devil” he is all by himself in Casa Christopher. He introduces himself to Cassie’s Aunt Heather. But he’s gun shy. After a most unpleasant marriage any serious relationship with a woman is the last thing on his mind. About a week before Aunt Heather dies from an ulcer Peter drops by and asks if he can do anything for her. Heather is listening to the radio and asks Peter to listen with her. All Heather says is “Listen. That’s my niece”. No name. Nothing. Heather dies shortly after, and Peter slowly falls in love with a voice on the radio. Two years pass ( I may have changed that by the time you read this) and Cassie creates a scandal and is suspended indefinitely without pay or medical. She isn’t fired but is told not to come back until “you figure out what’s pissing you off”. Because of the scandal Cassie is advised to “get out of town”. She makes tracks to Blue Cottage – a place she hasn’t been in a few years –she could take her aunt in small doses. When it becomes hers she cleans it within an in of its life and stains the deck the brownish color you see in the photo. Hearing a voice that sounds very familiar Peter comes over. Cassie doesn’t notice him. This is Cassie’s first time staining anything. Peters voice is somewhat gravelly and he says “missed a spot”. Cassie is startled and begins to fall off the stairs on the left side of the photo. Peter catches her and for the first time sees the face of the woman who owns the voice he’s fallen in love with.
I have had to do a lot of re-writing. Right now the story is pretty different from drift #1.. First of all is the overall appearance. When I wrote draft 1 the font I chose was Georgia 14 point. In the second draft I switched to the font called Courier. I kept the font size at 14 because 12 point is too blasted small for these 63 year old eyes. Since I started writing this blog entry I’ve written three more chapters. So I’ve got six chapters to play with. I generally write the skeleton of a chapter one day, add the meat to the bones a day later, then edit the crap out of what I’ve written. I wish I could share this draft with you. Who knows, I may actually do it. But if I do I’m going to require some real honest to god comment. Not comments that say “I love it…keep going” but some real criticism. I tried having a person critique it. All they did was disembowel it. They ripped it apart and essentially had nothing polite to say about it. I’m looking for polite, useful criticism. I’m not asking for the moon just tell me what you think about the chapter. The whole time I was writing draft # 1 I think I got a total 3 comments. Some parts of the story might sound familiar while others will be brand new.
So its up to you…. you know the deal. THA.
PS. Long chapters