Notes on a Story, or Stories…

I finished a couple big projects this week, and just got started on a new, much smaller one, so I thought I’d ruminate on them for a little bit. Otherwise, those Deep Thoughts will get churned up by the gears of everyday life and forgotten, just like most everything else does these days, and I will be sad.

Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I’ve just been busy on just about all fronts — family, work, fiction-writing, reading, house stuff — almost all but the exercise front, which fell by the wayside from mid-July to late August. My Run Log is empty! But I’m working to remedy that (two short walks today already!). It’s just too damn hard to fit it all into one day…

First, the smaller (just because it’s less big, but no less important!) project went out most recently. I can’t talk about that one much, other than to say it’s a collaboration, because we entered it into a competition. If it makes it into the competition, and then wins, we can continue to work on it, and tell all sorts of cool stories as a result. So far, we’ve just done eight pages. More on that as it develops…

Next, the bigger project. This is the young-adult fantasy novel, and I’ve been working on that crazy book, in one form or another, for about sixteen years now. Of course, I’ve done a couple other things during that time as well, but it’s sort of freaky to think about the Me that first dreamed up my 700-year-old character Jonathan Archibald Masterson Brightwell: “Sorcerer, Clockmaker, and only son of Richard Masterson the Plowman.”

That younger Me was quite different from the much-older Me that wrapped up the final revisions to novel version of that idea on Monday of this week! I was teaching junior high and single and in Nebraska, as opposed to working as a tech writer, married with two kids, and in North Carolina. I don’t even think I’d recognize that 23-year-old Me…

Anyhoo — what’s interesting (to me at least) about the whole process is how much fine-tuning I did to the novel over all those years. What started out as a novella (about 100 pages) with at least 10 point-of-view characters got boiled down to about five points of view last year. I even eliminated entire characters altogether (sorry Tim and Jersey and what’s-his-name). After getting feedback on that version, I honed it down to just three points of view, and thought that it was just right. That would’ve been earlier this year.

But after some arm-twisting by my agent and some soul-searching on my part, I knew the book would work best with just one main character who you stay with the whole time, and that was Kelley. She had the best voice, and the most to lose. And she was fun to write.

I thought it would take me a month to fix it all up, but I realized I had to write some new scenes and totally rework existing scenes to put it all in Kelley’s perspective. Ow. It ended up taking me three times as long, from May to late August. I am SLOW.

The end result, though, is that this version of the book is in the best possible shape I can get it. I even went over it once more time than my usual impatient self would’ve, and cleaned up typos and continuity errors. Can’t wait to start sending A Sudden Outbreak of Magic out to editors and getting their responses. I’m still fiddling with sequel ideas, though for the most part I’ve put Kelley and company on the back burner. I need a break from magic for a while!

I’m working a brand-new short story, instead. This one’s tentatively titled “Finder,” and so far, I’m intrigued. Have no idea how it’s going to turn out (oh, okay, I lied — I do have an idea. Writers ALWAYS have ideas! They just don’t like to share).

Here’s the opening:

It started with the bully’s dog. He’d run off — the dog, not the bully, unfortunately — and the Lost Dog posters had been up long enough to get sun-faded and rained on. After a week, Darren showed up at my door, looking like someone was holding a gun against his upper spine.

We’ll see how it goes! This is the kind of stuff that gets me up out of bed at 4:30 in the morning. Well, that and a little 4.5-year-old who’s had a bad dream… But Drew’s back in bed sawing logs, and I have another story to tell.

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2 thoughts on “Notes on a Story, or Stories…

  1. One of the things I love about you is that you are always brimming over with ideas. They seem to spill over in abundance, always interesting, sometimes wild.

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  2. Thanks, Sarah! I actually feel a bit stuck for ideas right now — I’m trying to write a short story or two, but most of my ideas are spinoffs from my novels, or are somehow related. So I’m trying to write something altogether new. Which includes the story, above, about the missing dog.

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