May 28, 2014 § 11 Comments
Already the process of writing this is a long story.
It began January 1993 with the same upbeat narrator telling a dark story. I got thirty pages into the telling of it and couldn’t go on. Didn’t want to do dark. In 2007 I came across the pages and still really liked the narrator. What if she told a light hearted tale? By this time I had lots of novels “under the bed” as they say. It was something I joked about with my writer pals: even a quick-write I’d title, then write below it, “A Novel. By Pierr Morgan.” Lots of laughs, especially from me. Thing is, I really wanted to write novels. “Something Substantial” (my own should) but was clueless how to go about it and worse, afraid I had nothing to say.
2008 I wrote 300 pages with the same quirky narrator, just letting her go, figuring I’d need to cut half of what she came up with eventually, but I’d have a substantial amount of character and plot development (I hoped) to work with. Maybe even enough to figure out what the story was about. I put the pages away in a binder (with tabs! Oh, how I love office supplies), till March of 2009 when I got serious and wrote every day on a First Draft – referring to the binder draft of 300 pages (not photo above) – for four months.
TIP: The way I kept myself in the chair? I promised to send each day’s pages to a dear friend in another town, in a real envelope with real stamps, by the 4pm mail pick-up four miles down the highway from my place. Every day I wrote like crazy till 3:30 so she’d 1) get real mail in her mailbox and 2) find out what happened next.
August 2009 I sent a copy of this First Draft (275 pages) to 10 writer/reader pals and waited for feedback. Of course there were as many different comments as personalities, but the cool thing was there were consistent comments on specific points across the ten. The biggest thing being the characters sounded too young to be in high school, which then made many of their actions unbelievable. I put the draft away to mull things over. I agreed with everything my readers criticized, I just wasn’t sure how to rework them.
Fall 2012 my mailbox friend found a class being offered at the library through Field’s End – “Deep Revision” with Waverly Fitzgerald. You had to bring a draft of a novel to revise. It was the title of the class that both inspired and terrified us . . . but we signed up. It changed everything for me. Yes, I’d been in writing workshops many times in the past, but for short stories (where I’d bring the same worn out 1 or 2 stories to be critiqued, really chicken to expose myself by writing something new), so the timing was right. What I’d never had the guts to do in the past, however, was actually revise something – like more than a sentence or two. In Waverly’s class I transformed a chapter near the end of the book and was so proud of myself, and liked the revision so much (finding it fun to write!), that I hopped back into the novel.
I read it straight through without a pen in my hand. Of course!–the characters weren’t high schoolers – they were eighth graders! Stuff started happening, mostly their voices in my mind at odd times while doing other things.
2013 was an odd year. I figured since I had the ending of the book pretty well visualized, if I could rewrite the beginning to have all those great “rules” of the story laid out for the reader, I could go all the way through the piece with a revisionist’s mind easy as pie. By April and the Northwest Chapter of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) Conference, I had chapter 1 – at 500 words exactly – in case my waiting list status changed to be in a round table critique of the first 500 words of a story. My status didn’t change (and I’m glad), but the conference was inspiring and thought-provoking. Mostly about what I was doing in my life – what I really wanted to do.
The rest of the year I pretty much abandoned the project, and the idea of ever being a novelist. I consoled myself with the belief that I was one of those people who loves and appreciates a good story, and knows one when she reads one (or experiences one on film), but would never write one herself.
Meanwhile (and for years) I’d read a lot of books on How To Write. But one in particular – a writer friend led me to in 2010 – I read over and over and marked with colored sticky-tags: Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication & Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams by Heather Sellers Oh, my goodness. How to do it – really and truly!
FOCUS: That’s what was missing in my life. I ripped up my list of “should” things and remade a list of “want”. Over and over came “finish ___.” I had written it (and several others- 7 to be exact, which sleep in boxes behind this computer as you read), but I hadn’t FINISHED yet.
2014: Since January I’ve been focused on my teen novel (in the photo), writing every day, and just returned from an amazing week in Tucson, at the Azure Gate, reading and critiquing with three wonderful writer pals…where I got to read all 200 pages of this draft and receive amazing feedback and encouragement.
Today I got this overwhelming urge to share the process of my novel with you. It’s too soon to give the title or describe anything more about the characters or plot other than what you’ve already read. I’m a writer who needs to have lots of privacy. This isn’t something I was born knowing. Over the years I’ve learned by error how my voice can freeze up having shared something too soon, too green, too vulnerable to be out in the light yet. But the act of writing, watching pages pile up, working through glitches and snags, thrilling at aha’s and great how-to books – this is what I’d like to share and hope you’re interested to read about… maybe be inspired to revisit a project of your own that’s been asleep somewhere.
TIP: Kiss it gently on waking. Care for it as you would a newborn. xo Pierr