I had grand plans for my next historical manuscript. The idea was solid, the plot outlined, and an experimental first chapter written. I’ve read that chapter twice now. The voice is compelling, the writing a level or two above ‘crappy first draft’ and it is still a story I want to write.
Just not now.
Getting this story down will require me to willingly break my own heart on a daily basis for over a year; it’s already broken each time I pull up the day’s headlines or log into social media. The parallels between the manuscript’s era and today are clear. An argument could be made that now is exactly the time for such a novel, but this writer knows her own mind enough to understand that reality must be a shade or two brighter before she can mentally take that risk.
Had I not vacationed in Maine this past summer, I would never have considered opening a manuscript I wrote and promptly abandoned back in 2004. While driving on the familiar roads of my youth, I made a passing comment that this story, which was in some ways a ‘you have no further power over me’ letter to my old home town, would be much richer if I were writing it today.
I still would never have considered opening the document had Ruth, the cantankerous grandmother from the story, not invaded my dreams and (colorfully) reminded me that my perspective on the minefield of mother/teenage daughter relationships is now immediate, not speculative. Since this is a major theme of the book, I had best get cracking while I have captive beta readers who will roll their eyes if Mama gets something wrong.
I tried arguing with Ruth, a futile concept if there ever was one. I write historicals now, I said. It’s all women’s fiction, she countered. It’s bound to be dated, I said. She laughed. You’ve been in those mountains recently, Dimwit. Add some damn cell phones if it makes you feel better. Nothing else has changed.
She had a point, so I read. I read until 2:00 AM. Several times I had a grand idea about how I’d handle a plot point, only to find out the same thought had occurred to me fourteen years ago. I even cried once.
There were issues, of course. [Read more…]