Seeking the grace note

The rewrite is finished.  Almost.   I’ve layered and polished and cut and rewritten.  I could have loaded it up and emailed it back to my agent by now, but I still haven’t quite nailed the grace note.   For me, this is an essential part of feeling really finished with a book.  Even if I end up going through the manuscript a few more times (as I will, in line edits and copy edits and galley, at the very least), when I get this particular draft done, the book is finished. 

But I need that grace note.

According to Wikipedia, grace notes in music are ornaments, musical flourishes that are not necessary to the overall melodic (or harmonic) line, but serve to decorate or "ornament" that line."

A grace note in writing is much the same.  It isn’t necessary, but adds to the enjoyment of the reader.  A little embellishment that brings an extra feeling of oomph to the end.  It’s usually very small, but not always.  Properly orchestrated, it can be the thing that brings a reader to tears, that makes a difference between a satisfying ending and a memorable one.  I keep thinking I have an image for this book, and then it’s not quite right.  It’s not something that can be forced, either–I have to just keep going back through, touching the pages, not looking, but letting it bubble up.  The right note will ring back through the whole book, lighting up it all up in just the right way. 

This afternoon, I’m meeting my sister for lunch, and I’m serving the Girls in the Basement notice:  you want a grace note here, better get busy.  One way or another, it goes back out today.   I’m flying to Philly in the morning and don’t want it hanging over my head all weekend.  There are other projects restlessly pacing backstage, waiting their turn.

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5 thoughts on “Seeking the grace note

  1. What a wonderful concept, and one I can relate to after years in choirs and orchestra, and with my music fixation. I’m thinking it’s also kind of like a bridge in a song, but maybe not quite as overt.

    Thanks for sharing yet another useful secret.

    It’s been a while since I finished any of your books, or something might immediately come to mind, but would it be too much to ask you to share a couple of your grace notes from previous books? Or are they deep, dark secrets we must discover on our own? 😉 I’d love to see another post on this if you have time.

  2. Makes perfect sense to me and it’s such a lovely way to describe that final accent or embellishment.

  3. I just can’t wait to read it–I met a friend at Barnes&Noble Thurs. night before the midnight premiere of Spidey III and my main feeling in the fiction section was, Damn! No new Barbara Samuel!
    So…JUST! CAN’T! WAIT! Especially with my name in it.

  4. I found the grace note. It’s absurdly obvious.

    As fate or the Writing Goddess would have it, I stumbled on a newspaper article in my travels that added a very powerful string of notes to this entire manuscript. So important that I’m sure I would have added it anyway, but this way, I can layer it in before I send it out again.

    Still, by Wednesday, latest. I’ve got to let go.

  5. Oh, the letting go– it’s so hard. Oftentimes, I think that’s much harder than facing the blank page. After all, with the blank page, there are still infinite number of possibilities–letting go is far more finite.

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