The last few leaves on Ruby's cottonwood.

#amwriting Update: Finished!

The last few leaves on Ruby's cottonwood. The last few leaves cling to the branches of Ruby’s cottonwood behind Treehouse. They were still green last time I thought I was finished with this manuscript.

#amwriting update: When I last wrote about my progress on the new memoir, I was close to finishing a major revision. I figured I’d be done by the end of the week.

Wrong. When I got to the last page of the story I call Bless the Birds, I knew I needed to read the whole manuscript one more time before I sent it off.

Only first I needed to prepare for the Women Writing the West Conference.

The sacred datura along the Treehouse retaining wall were just opening when I got home from the conference. The sacred datura blooming along the retaining wall when I got home.

I got home from the conference Sunday evening just as the datura flowers were opening for the night; Monday morning I woke eager to begin reading.

After yoga and breakfast, I opened the file and began, making small changes here and there, smoothing out rough places so the story would really shine. I got so absorbed that I forgot everything else until my belly politely reminded me that it was past two o’clock and lunch would be welcome….

I made myself a salad with some of the last speckled “troutback” lettuce from my front-deck container kitchen garden, added sun-ripened Stupice tomatoes from the same, plus local cheese and not-local organic avocado.

The troutback lettuce that went into my salad (thanks to Renee's Garden Seeds!). The troutback lettuce that went into my salad (thanks to Renee’s Garden Seeds!).

And then continued to read as I ate, the laptop open on the kitchen island next to my lunch.

I came up for air after working through six chapters. It was past four o’clock and time to stop before my brain quit reading critically.

I took my daily walk to the Post Office across town; back at home, I changed into my running togs and set off on my twice-weekly run.

Tuesday I got up and did the same thing (without the run), reading my way steadily through the manuscript, changing a word here or there, refining a sentence, subtracting a bit that seemed unnecessary, adding something I had forgotten. I worked until late afternoon again, making it through another six chapters.

Wednesday I read 8 chapters, which took me to Chapter 20. (There are 34 chapters in total.) Thursday I made it through another seven.

While I was immersed in the story, the milkweed seeds began to float away.... While I was immersed in the story, the milkweed seeds began to float away….

Friday I had a morning conference call and a one o’clock meeting, so I wasn’t sure I’d have any reading time. But I dove in after the meeting, and by the time I headed out on my Friday evening run, I only had three chapters left to read.

“I’ll finish those on Saturday morning,” I said to myself. Only somewhere in mile three of my run, when my body was tired enough that my mind quit its chatter, I thought of something I had forgotten to say, a loose thread I needed to weave into the narrative.

When I got home, I opened the file, wove in that thread, and then continued reading, beginning with the end of the chapter I had finished earlier in the day–I find it helps to start a few pages before where I quit reading  to get myself back into the story.

I read through dinner, sitting at the kitchen island with the laptop open, and then washed dishes, made my evening tea, and took my laptop and tea to the couch and continued reading. I read the last page through tears at eight o-three that night.

Indian ricegrass in my front-yard mountain prairie. Richard’s favorite grass, Indian ricegrass, in my front-yard mountain prairie.

I almost hit the “send” button right then. Only my inner writer said, “No, read the new bits over one last time tomorrow morning. And then see if it feels done.”

I did, and made a few more changes.

I woke this morning thinking I had left something out early in the story. When I opened the file and looked, the bit I thought I had forgotten was already there. I remembered another little detail, looked for it, and lo and behold! It was there too.

That’s when I knew I was done. When I start fussing about things I’ve already included, it’s time to let the manuscript go.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll send off Bless the Birds. May the story I wrote with heart outstretched as if it were my hand at last be on the road to finding a publisher and its audience.

Treehouse at sunset tonight. Treehouse at sunset tonight, just before I started writing this post.