By Laura Spinella
The right words. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately—113,724 of them to be exact. I’ve looked at them microscopically and fussed over each one like the bow on a baby’s hat. We are past the collective stage, the part where you consider words as a whole and the story they tell. Edits have come and gone and so has the window in which one can easily shift ideas, reroute action, or change a character’s motivation. The next time I see Perfect Timing it will be typeset with a giant note on it about how now is not the time to make extensive revisions. I’m down to wringing my hands over lone words—a curious irony of the trade.
Perfect Timing is a book I wrote in stages. It was my in-between novel. Something I worked on while Beautiful Disaster simmered and Valley Views from Abbotsford, PA, made its way in and out of my head, finally making its way to a permanent address in my desk drawer. We’re talking years here, and during that time I never thought about Perfect Timing in terms of publication. Actually, I never thought of it as Perfect Timing. Back then it went by a different title, the words adding up to a rather different story. This was my feel-good composition, my comfort food while struggling to find the right words in other books and fielding the real rejection attached to this dreamy endeavor. Nowadays it’s all email, but back then I read so many snail-mail rejections I developed envelopaphobia—a fear of mailboxes. I loved to tinker with that book, the same way Leo, who lives down the street, has tinkered with his’67 Corvair since we moved here.
A bunch of years ago—I don’t remember how many, I found some courage, or maybe it was just a whim (courage is more dramatic, don’t you think?), and shipped that comfort manuscript off to one of the biggest agents in the business. Not long after, the agent called to say she’d been reading my words since she opened them that morning. I had this crisp vision of Laura Spinella alphabet soup spilling over her desk. Would she get my words as a collective whole? Well, she got about half of them. She loved the back portion of the storyline, gushing in fact. Unfortunately, (see how one word indicates this won’t turn out well) she merely dripped over the present-day portion. Still, she was lovely and encouraging, suggesting I rewrite and resubmit the book to her.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t do it.
There’s a left hand drawer in my desk and I put the book in there, not considering it again. Maybe because the timing wasn’t perfect. I also think it had something to do with preserving the book’s ability to be my go-to comfort writing. But I did tuck it away, satisfied with partial big-time validation and the inkling that its words had potential. Fast forward a couple of years. On another whim, I gave the same book to my current agent. She read it and replied with the bold notion that the time was perfect to expand upon and rewire those words. So I did. It took the better part of a year. During those seasons of revisions, on occasion, I’d walk past Leo’s house. He’d be there, in the throes of rebuilding his beloved Corvair. Car parts were strewn across his yard like dead soldiers, Leo standing hunched over his engine, up to his elbows in grease. That’s a fair picture for the mental work that went into the reinvention of this book—a relatable process, I’m sure, for every GBC member.
So here I am with words—a bunch of them that are scheduled for a print run, slated for a spine, pretty cover, and a copyright. Below are a few of my favorite words from PERFECT TIMING. They’re original words that survived the practice years and the storage years. Like my kids, I know them at glance, they are that attached to me, reminding me that old and new, all the words in this book are mine.
“It wasn’t what people assumed. Not that people assumed anything about Aidan and Isabel. Their relationship flew under the radar of Catswallow gossip, but it wasn’t the fare or affair the secluded setting of a dilapidated farmhouse might suggest.”—Chapter Two
“Aidan inched away, their faces but a breath apart. He’d never used this moment to convey anything so honest. In truth, he’d never used this moment to convey much of anything at all.”—Chapter Sixteen
“Her father returned to the sofa as Patrick sat in a chair where his frame pulled tight, his bearded face doubtful. “Eric, did you not hear the part where the town’s most popular heterosexual boy, its very own Conrad Birdie, is being railroaded for the crime?”—Chapter Seventeen (maybe you have to read it in context, but those words still make me laugh)
“Seriously, Isabel, whatever’s happened between us, did you think that if you ever called I wouldn’t come?”
Her lips pursed tight, eyes welling. “In a million years,” she said, arms wrapped in a straightjacket grip, “I never thought I’d call.” –Chapter Twenty-Six
Laura Spinella is the author of the award-winning novel, Beautiful Disaster and the upcoming novel, Perfect Timing. Visit her at lauraspinella.net