Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Growing a Story : : Anne McAllister

A couple of weeks ago I finished what I hope are the last revisions on a book that has seemed to me to be the veritable redwood of books. It grew and grew and grew. And then it got pruned, cut back nearly to its roots, and grew again. And grew and grew.

I pruned it back again, determined to get what was probably an 80,000 word story into a 50,000 word format.  Eventually it cooperated. To say that it is spare in some places is apt. But it had a backstory that needed to be front and center to make sense of what was happening in the now -- and why it had such an impact.

These are things I didn't think about when I was setting out to write the story.  I almost never think about things like that because, well, because that isn't how story comes to me. It comes via characters, via little details in a conversation that goes on without me while I am pondering . . . what if . . . 

It rarely comes with a plot built in. It almost never comes with a "promise" attached (see editorial guidelines if you don't instinctively know what that means).  It just happens . . . which is not very satisfactory from an outcome standpoint on occasion.

That is when rewriting is king, when you strip back the story to its essence (having written it, you now know what it's all about. You hope.) and see how you can bring it to life again without all the stuff you wrote to figure out where it was going in the first place.

Let me assure you that it's do- able. But it's not something you want to do a lot of.  And you never know when you start out that it's going to happen. Trust me, if you knew, you wouldn't start!

So . . . here I am again . . . starting out.  While I was rewriting the last one I wrote another book in the middle that took six weeks start to finish. Go figure. I could use another one of those -- not another one of the redwoods.

So I'm preparing the ground for the seeds -- reading, thinking, jotting notes.  Trying to get my characters to say something so I can learn more about them.  I know more about the hero than the heroine. At least he's had a name -- Clint -- for a while. She just got hers last night.  I tried at least fifty which she summarily rejected. Why? Who knows. They weren't 'her.'  

But this is her -- she's called Ramona.  Why? I don't know that, either.  But while I was trying to think of names, suddenly she seemed to simply tell me her name, as if she was tired of waiting for me to try to guess it.

I think that's a hint of her character. She's impatient with people who don't get things done as quickly as she wants them done.  She doesn't faff around. She cuts to the heart of the matter.  Somewhere along the line she decided she had to make decisions for herself; no one else was going to make them (or do a good job if they did).  I think Clint is going to have his work cut out for him!  

I'm getting excited now, thinking about them.  Like Ramona, I'm getting impatient. But if I start too soon, I might end up with another redwood.  One per forest is enough.

When the redwood has a title and a definite pub date, I'll let you know.  Right now it looks like probably autumn 2015. If so, there better not be more revisions necessary!  It's an Antonides book -- Lukas's story.  Trust Lukas to have needed to learn patience, too.  

At least this is a good time of the year to be planting story seeds and watching them take root and start to grow.  There's still snow on the ground here, but I've started some seedlings inside -- and I've got Ramona and Clint going as well.

And Clint's brother, Cole, who was the hero of my Last Year's Bride, is not only out as an ebook, but also as Love Me, Always, a trade paperback with Sarah Mayberry's Great Wedding Giveaway book, too. 

1. "Sequoia sempervirens Big Basin Redwoods State Park 8" by Allie_Caulfield from Germany - 2012-02-04 02-05 Capitola, Big Basin 118 Redwoods State Park. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
2. "Arnica montana MHNT.BOT.2011.18.5" by Roger Culos - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

1 comment:

dstoutholcomb said...

I like the name Clint.