I have written previously about taking twenty years to finish one novel…and I’m still not satisfied. Who knew that I would write the second one in about six months? I started Change of Plans about a year ago when some wonderful women entered my brain and started to tell their stories. I had one real problem: Claire, a corporate attorney and force of nature, started to take over the book. As writers, when this happens we have two choices. First, we can go with it and let the character lead the way. However, I really felt that this story was best as an ensemble piece. Claire and I duked it out for a few months and came to an agreement. I would have a lot of fun letting her character loose on the page and, in return, she would let me include the stories of the other characters. Once we negotiated our settlement, I finished the draft easily–too easily. Normally accustomed to sweating over every word, I am flummoxed about how well the first draft came out. I’m currently revising, and yes, I find areas to work on, but no major plot problems or difficulties. Mainly, I’m revising particular scenes to up their ante, and wondering what I am missing in the text to have it come out so well so soon.
In the meantime, that first novel still won’t let me be. I’ve vacillated between letting it go to move on (Change of Plans came about by doing so), or digging deeper. As I have poked and prodded with this story, it still compels me. I have chased after it for years, struggling to find the right voice, even changing genres in the process. Slowly, with persistence, the real story is starting to emerge. I have removed all supernatural references but added many historical ones. I changed the time setting from 1980 to 1970, which added an interesting dimension to the story as I incorporated the turmoil of that time period. As I keep going, I see how this story has required me to grow as a writer first in order to tell it properly.
Last week I reread the draft. Pleased with the writing and flow of the story, something still nagged at me. I’ve come so much closer to where the story should be, but I still hadn’t gone far enough. Something was missing, and I felt determined to find it. I took a walk to clear my head. As I did so, an insistent idea emerged: change the story to first person.
I couldn’t wait to get home and try out my theory. So far I am about 20% into a new draft, and the change works well. The oddest part is to write “I” and “me” but still be somebody else, and her voice has the authority I’ve looked for all this time. I’m ready to let her lead the way now, because she knows better than I what to say–and it’s coming out almost as easily as the voices in Change of Plans.
This process of discovery excites me, and that, more than anything, is my reason for writing. I know people who can plan their novels ahead of time and set up tidy outlines, but I seem to need multiple, messy drafts with lots of walks in between to sort out what I want to say. I love the surprises my characters bring to me, and I’m excited about the months to come as I move from revisions to seeking an agent. Change of Plans is ready for that stage, and soon, I hope, a new and improved Blood and Loam.