Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Paddler's Journey - book update: rough draft finished!

Finishing a rough draft is a bittersweet moment. There's a sense of triumph in having completed a project, more so when it's an entire book, fifty-four thousands words strung together to hopefully form some coherent picture. But there's also the realization that you are far from finished, that the joy of creation now turns into the pain of revision.

I'm really happy with the first draft of A Paddler's Journey. I like the balance I struck with paddling details and general story telling. Some humor breaks up serious moments, and deep thoughts and insights flow directly from the action. Non-paddlers can easily follow along while kayakers will undoubtedly remember their own similar experiences. There's adventure and beauty and characters and carnage. Just like real life.

Now I'm going back over it line by line, choosing the best words, checking constructions and descriptions, making everything flow and fit together. Once it's cleaned up I'll send it out to beta readers to get feedback from a wide variety of sources, then blend that all together to revise the whole thing as much as necessary to make it the best book possible. It takes time and is a frustrating process, but in the end it results in a better product and something that I know I'll be proud of.

In the meantime, here's a little excerpt from the end. Let me know if you like it.

We woke with the sun but took our time over breakfast and breaking camp, no one eager for the day’s conclusion. The bigger rapids lay below us, still packing enough punch to make folks nervous. I portaged Vortex with Norman, not out of fear but simple solidarity. I ran Carson’s Falls for much the same reason, taking more pleasure from Norman’s ugly but successful run than my own graceful line. No one had anything to prove but everyone took their shot, nothing but smiles on the downstream side regardless of the result. I finished up as happy and excited as the first time I completed the Forks without swimming. Pat and I drove back through the Sierra, scouting potential creeks and marveling at the beauty in the world.

I barely paddled in the six months that followed. My father passed away that summer after two months in the hospital, never regaining full consciousness after a car accident. I wrote a novel and began the long and arduous path towards its publication. When a friend called and needed a last minute assistant for a kayak class, I returned to paddling and met my future wife on the water, beginning a new stage of life while experiencing the sport through the eyes of another.

I am very much a kayaker these days and always will be, no matter how long between paddles or how much my skills deteriorate. Kayaking is a part of who I am. It’s the part that carries boats for those who can’t lift them and waits at the top of a rapid to guide down the less experienced. It’s the drive to be the best and test yourself against forces you cannot overcome but only hope to ride. It shares sorrows and joys with friends and strangers, the only requirements to join are a desire to try and the willingness to fail. In many ways kayaking is the best part of me, and I hope I give it my best in return.

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