As you guys know from my last post, DBP has contracted two novels from me. (Contracts delivered, signed, and off in the mail tomorrow. It's official) Anyhow, I'm sitting here working on the rewrite for the second novel, pondering the fate of my two main characters. The reason? They've changed my mind.
Let me back up a minute and explain this story's history because it is a bit unusual. You could even say life changing given the fact that I never desired to be a writer until this story came to me in a dream. Seriously.
About eight years ago, I went to bed one night a stay-at-homeschooling mom with the desire to be exactly that. I was content in that calling. The next morning I woke up feeling as though I'd experienced someone else's life. During the night I had the most peculiar dream--odd in the fact that it seemed to have come in chapters (a young woman falling in love, a frazzled mother, a discontent aging wife, a bitter old woman)and it made complete sense. Freaky, huh?
For about six months this dream plagued my thoughts. How did she meet this young man? At the time, I didn't know much about him, except that his family had endured hardship, so I began to ponder that. What happened to them? Since I felt like my couple belonged in another era, I questioned that too. When did they live? What did they do? And since there were several chapters, the questions kept mounting to the point that I couldn't keep it all straight, and had to write it down.
It's a little funny to look back because I remember sitting behind the computer, which I barely knew how to turn on. I'd spent the previous seven years changing diapers. I didn't want my husband to know what I was up to for fear he'd think I was nuts. Silly me, he already knew I was nuts. He loves me anyway.
Anyhow, I finally confessed, and he was quite supportive. Two years later I had a book. A very long book. 153+ thousand words to be almost exact. Then, unsure of what to do with it, I put it away. Life went on, kids got bigger, and a couple of years later I pulled it out and revised it. Twice. Then I put it away again. Life went on, kids grew, we moved, I pulled it out, revised it two more times, thought about trying to publish it, looked into it, got discouraged and put it away.
A year and a half later, a little voice whispered, "It's time to get serious." So, I pulled it out again, and revised it. Then I decided it might be a good idea to submit parts to a few critique groups (shudder, cringe) It truly was awful, and they let me know it. At first I thought they were all stupid for not recognizing my genius. But really, it was the best thing that could've happened, I have to admit.
That's when I finally decided to try and learn about writing. During this stage of my writing journey I accumulated over twenty books on the craft. And I can honestly say that I read them all. I rewrote my book and started submitting to critique groups again. I even joined a few more. My book? Still crap, but not as stinky.
How was I ever going to get the word count down? I started my...hmmm, what am I up to? Oh yeah, eighth rewrite. This time trying to heed all the advice in those books, as well as the advice of every person who'd ever critqued my work--even if their preferred genre was scifi-time travel-murder mysteries with unicorns. (Don't do that, btw.)
Though, there are exceptions to every rule. My bestest and most helpful writer friend EVER, writes YA fantasy, and No Other would not be if it weren't for her honest feedback.
But usually, when you get a critique from a writer who likes scifi-time travel-murder mysteries with unicorns--and your book's not that--you'll find that writer has suggested that you add at least one unicorn, and should change the setting to outerspace.
My eighth rewrite stalled out at chapter one because I kept revising it to include such things. (Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.)
My point is that critiques take you so far, and then you have to trust your story and your calling. In my case, the words, "It's time to get serious," were replaced with, "Write for Me."
That's when God brought my YA Fantasy awesome writer friend into my life. He also gave me a title, No Other (before that I had tried a succession of different titles, none quite fitting) Then I felt the Lord's urging to just work on the first part--when they're young, barely out of their teens. Make it a book. So, I took what had originally been the first 120 pages of my 700 page book and turned it into 312, deepening and expanding the characters in ways I didn't know were possible. What an experience!
Every few chapters, I sent an email off to my friend for feedback. She told me, honestly, what worked and what didn't, made little suggestions here and there, and spotted those pesky typos that seemed to escape me no matter how many times I proofed. She also trusted that I knew my story, and I knew how to tell it, never suggesting that it needed a unicorn--which made me value her opinion even more.
In late June, my final version of the first part of my original novel was completed--its own separate book. Off went the submissions, and now my book has a home. A home that also wants the rest of the story, so now I'm working on that. Which brings me back to my point about my character's having changed my mind. Except this post has grown so long, that I think I'll save that story for next time. It'll be worth it.