Did I reach my goal?
But before I get there, let me explain. In previous Bootcamp check-ins, I had overestimated my ability to go back to fulltime dayjob work hours and revise at this pace. My revisions were really massive rewrites but I was in complete denial. lol at 20k in a week. So last week, I was all reasonable and rational and set the bar lower for myself. I reached that goal on Thursday night. I had revised/rewritten 3 chapters by Thursday night. Cool!
Except my brain caught on fire or something close to that and I finished revising/rewriting Magicballoonbook as of this morning.
promptly followed by
No, really. I rewrote or revised 17,000 words on Saturday alone. If you want to know what my brain looked like, it closely resembled mashed potatoes. This morning, I wrote the last of the Lodz Ghetto chapters, which were all new…
Okay, no, time to come clean. Magicballoonbook was basically rewritten. Of the original draft that I finished last July, about 5k survived, and half of those were the last chapter. That’s what these revisions were. I cut out almost one entire plotline, three main characters, and boosted up a tertiary character into a major secondary character plot. I went back to my original vision for the climax of the book. I reworked the entire book in the last four weeks. And it was worth it. For me, sometimes rewriting comes off pretty damn polished, fortunately, and my CPs who read parts or all of the first 30k section I sent them gave all positive feedback. That, finally, after 13 months of working on this book, it is a BOOK SHAPED THING.
Yay bookshaped thing!
What IS Magicballoonbook? Okay, sadly, I can’t actually query it as Magicballoonbook though it’ll always be magicballoonbook in my heart. I’m querying it (after all CPs have read and given me feedback, so barring any major arc issues, then Aprilish) as THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON. It’s the story of Ellie Baum, an American Jewish girl who goes to Berlin with her class for spring break. When she’s over there, she accidentally time-travels via a magic red balloon back to 1988 Berlin. There, she meets Kai, an English born Romani who helps people escape from East to West Berlin via the magic balloons. They have to figure out whether the magic was deliberate, and if so, who’s doing it and how to get her home. More importantly, how to stop anyone else from being harmed by the rogue balloons as other time travelers are found dead on the streets. Ellie’s connection to the balloons becomes apparent through flashback chapters to her grandfather’s experience in the Holocaust when he was in the Lodz Ghetto.
On a more thematic level, Magicballoonbook is an exploration of the idea of memory, collective memory, and history, what repeats, our responsibility to murder and evil that happened in the past as well as in the future, and the fallout of choices we make. It’s a messy book. Ellie makes choices that I don’t know that I would make (for better, or for worse). She’s imperfect. She really surprised me. When I started talking to her, I thought that she was this quiet, passive, meek girl. But then I realized that she’s shy and introverted, but that made her no less strong or confident. She’s got this fierce quiet confidence and it guided everything she does in the book. And I have no doubt that off the page, whatever happens to Ellie at the book’s end, it’ll guide her well in the future.
Kai was an interesting character. In the first draft, he had no voice. In the second draft, this revision/rewrite that I started in the fall and put down to finish my ballet book, I added him mostly as a plot device, I’ll admit. i needed his access to the world. Ellie’s was too limited in the 1988 chapters and that became a hinderance. Kai would give me, and the reader, the access we needed to the world without information dumps. But in the process of writing him, I fell in love with him all over.
I had no idea before I began writing him again a few weeks ago, how deeply he struggled with the idea that everyone he cared for–all of these political enemies in East Germany that he befriended through his work with this magical rebel organization–left him. That was his job. To help them leave. Everyone is always leaving Kai. I didn’t realize how much that really clung to him, and shaped him, until I began this process.
I didn’t realize that his relationship with his best friend Mitzi was one of push and pull. She is sparkly and bright. She balances out his dark. And she’s not afraid of calling him out on his bullshit. He can get all high and mighty sometimes, and Mitzi’s the one that doesn’t let it get to his head. And Kai’s decisions, especially what he’s given up to protect his sister, inspired me. I loved him and Sabina, and what he did for her. I loved that no matter what we do, no matter how much or how hard we love someone, that we can’t always protect them and they’ll make decisions and do things that hurt people.
Magicballoonbook is a book that came to me in a flash while I was driving (too fast) on a curve next to a median wall and 99 Red Balloons came on the radio. The last stanza of the song, “If I could find a souvenir just to prove the world was here, and here it is a red balloon, I think of you and let it go” really sums up the feel of the book. It’s at once heartbreakingly hopeful and terribly dark. It’s not the happiest of books, but the characters are on their way to finding happiness and peace at the end of the book.
Though it takes place in 1988, when the world seemed so black and white, Magicballoonbook is mostly about the moral grey areas where most of us live. What happens if we have to leave the people we love? What happens if the people you love do terrible things? If you could change history and save lives, but change the world in unknowable and potentially equally dangerous ways, would you?
Whoa. Okay. So that was my Monday check in? Sorry for the long post!
Over the next week, I’m sending off to CPs, working on my query and synopsis, and polishing up loose ends 🙂
Go Team Tinker!