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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Writer’s Skill/Craft (04/22/10)

TITLE: Once I Loved You
By Carol Slider
04/28/10


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Once I loved you.

We met the weekend Jim was out of town. I followed a two-lane road into the country, past half-deserted small towns and 100-acre ranches. When I saw an old gray stone house with empty windows and a caved-in roof, I stopped in the driveway and gazed at it for a while. I noticed an antique rose bush that still hugged the slanting porch... and all at once, you were there.

You followed me home, whispering sweet words—and after that, you became my obsession.

I spent every spare minute with you, ignoring everything else, even Jim. Jim understood, as always, even when he realized this wasn’t an ordinary fling.

“This one means a lot to you,” he said one night, sad but resigned. And I admitted he was right.

Nothing cooled my ardor. Even when you were difficult—even when you did things I didn’t expect or want—still I loved you.

When THE END came, it seemed like another beginning. There you were, whole and complete and perfect...

My novel.

I read you again, savoring your craftsmanship, your power to move and inspire. You pried apart the layers of the heart, exposing its capacities for good and evil. You were a mystery, a grand romance, a profound spiritual journey of sin, grace and redemption. Oh, how I loved you!

Jim read you first. He said “It’s good” in his understated way. I didn’t mind, because I knew he meant it.

I gave you to Lillian, who taught middle school English. She told me I had forgotten a “the” on Page 64 and used “there” instead of “their” on Page 138. As for your plot and characters: “Pretty good story. Kind of wordy in places.”

Did I love you less? No, of course not. When she wasn’t grading atrocious papers, Lillian read fantasy and science fiction. How could she could judge your true nature, when you hadn’t a dragon or spaceship in all your 276 pages?

Finally, with some trepidation, I gave you to Margot. Margot belonged to a support group for writers who had once loved manuscripts. But their manuscripts had disappointed, betrayed and abused them so severely (as their rejection letters proved) that they now seemed to dislike all manuscripts. Margot didn’t always agree with their brutal criticisms, and told me so.

“Sure, I’ll read it,” she said. “And I’ll be fair.”

Two weeks passed. I tried not to look at you, afraid of seeing a flaw I hadn’t noticed before. Then Margot called.

“Okay, I finished it. You want honest criticism, right?”

“Yes...” I said, half-truthfully.

“Okay. Well, you use passive voice too much... you should eliminate every ‘was’ or ‘were’, if you can. You’ve got a lot of stereotypes—good girl, bad girl, greedy tycoon, etcetera—except for Stephen, and no one’s going to relate to a viola player. Most people can’t even pronounce 'viola.' Stephen shouldn’t end up with Elise. It should be Katie, even if she did steal his college money. Those plot twists—the note in the book, the truth about Leonard’s mother... way too predictable. Mainly, though, it doesn’t fit any genre. It’s too sanctimonious and old-fashioned for the general adult fiction market, but it’s not religious enough for the Christian market. You couldn’t sell it, like it is now. But it’s pretty well written, except for...”

Love is supposed to grow and deepen, even when you realize that the one you love isn’t perfect. That should have happened to my love for you. But it didn’t. After that, I saw you the way Margot did.

So I tried to change you. I took away Stephen’s viola and made him play a pronounceable trumpet, but he hated playing the trumpet. I tried to make Stephen love Katie, but he didn’t love Katie—and he broke Elise’s heart. I ruthlessly deleted hints about plot twists, and made them illogical. I wrote laboriously hip dialogue to make the story less old-fashioned, and added a subplot about a minister. Perhaps I made you better—but the shadows of the stone house and the rose bush were gone.

It was over.

I’ve saved you in the directory called OLD NOVELS. If I ever read you again, it will be like finding a corsage pressed between the leaves of a book. There’ll be no hint of fragrance—but perhaps a word or a phrase here and there will remind me...

Once I loved you.


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This article has been read 739 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Seema Bagai 04/29/10
Loved this piece.
Catrina Bradley 04/29/10
Bravo! This is an AWESOME romance! I could feel this author's emotions, especially "when the shadows stone house and the rose bush were gone." Heartbreaking line. What I want to know - was the "improved" novel sold??
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/30/10
This is so wonderful. Your love for your work is quite apparent. It is so true how characters have a mind of their own. Only writers seem to understand that at times it is impossible to change them without losing them forever.
Jackie Wilson05/02/10
I especially appreciated your descriptions of the different types of responses one receives when asking someone to read and give feedback. Lovely writing.
Eliza Evans 05/02/10
Oooh! I wondered if this was you. Gorgeous.
A special entry.
I love it!
Very tenderly, reverently written. Love that line about the corsage.

Such a satisfying read.
harvestgal Ndaguba05/05/10
Wow, I could totally identify with this, that's what made it so enjoyable for me. It was a blessing to read. Thanks.
Beth LaBuff 05/05/10
This is so masterfully written… from your beginning when the reader tries to figure out "who" the loved one is, and then your love made me care for the one loved too! you pulled a lot of emotion from this reader. Now, can you change it back?
Ann Grover05/06/10
Beautiful!... And ain't it the truth!
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/06/10
Congratulations, Carol, for your well-deserved EC for this wonderful story.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/06/10
It's still beautiful and well deserving of an EC. Congratulations.
Patricia Turner05/06/10
I love the gentle pace of this story - the way it unfolds a little like a "Dear John" letter. This is so cleverly written and so deserving of an EC! Congratulations!
Beth LaBuff 05/06/10
Carol, I was so excited to see this wonderful story receive and Editor's Choice... super congrats, girl!
Rachel Phelps05/06/10
Amazing. Oh, this one made me smile and tear up almost as the same moment. Lovely. Congrats on your win!
Jane Winstead05/06/10
Very clever.
Connie Dixon05/07/10
Really enjoyed this. This is the kind of story that inspires a writer to write. Great job! Congratulations.
Folakemi Emem-Akpan05/12/10
Loved, loved, loved this. It is true that characters do have a life of their own and the very worst thing you can do as a writer is to try to change your character to fit into the expected mould.
Thanks for this beautiful story.