Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Finding your Story

My journey as a writer continues to open up in front of me like a kalidescope.  Just when I think I'm seeing the most beautiful display of color, I turn the dial a smidge and an entirely different reality is before me.

My writing is the same, in the sense that I've studied my craft, revised my work and I feel it's the most wonderful story.  Then I have a new lesson that changes what I've written.  Making the dialog real, characters more fully developed, and the plot stronger.

In workshops, books about writing, SCBWI conferences, and critique groups certain catch phrases are thrown around. 

Show Don't Tell




Tell Your Story


There is something very frustrating about the way I learn.  I can't just see these words and make the changes.  I have to live the words for them to actually take root in my brain.  (Sorry mom, it's always been like this for me.) 
You would think that working on a novel for a few years would be enough to know that you're telling your story? (duh.)   I'm from the thick headed school of learning, so it takes more than this for me to get these messages. 
My YA contemporary fiction piece began as a series of short stories that I pieced together.  It became a character driven story about friendship.  I continued to revise and work on the plot line of the story.  It needed something more to make it work.  I added the perfect event and the story fell in line on my white board.
I received critiques at conferences.  Loving my characters, voice, humor but questioned the plot.  I would go home and cross reference my plot line. Making adjustments.


My "Ahhhh Haaa Moment" was Coming


At the SCBWI Summer Conference 2013, I was looking forward to my critique with a well known agent.  When I left the critique, I felt sick.  She told me my story was not focused on the correct plot point.  It wasn't working.  In the back of my head I knew she was right.  But, I couldn't hear it over the praise I had been recieving.
I submitted the same piece at the AZ regional conference, three months later.  This time the agent who critiqued it, was the same that I was assigned to "shadow" all day, and she repeated exactly what the one in LA said.  I was fortunate to be sitting with this agent all day, and she was kind enough to share her expertise with me.  (I should say, this agent isn't exactly known for sugar coating things- making for a very tough day)  I was so thankful for this opportunity- it was without a doubt a turning point for me.
My funny, character driven story of friendship was simply my time to get to know my characters.  Everything that I had written up to this point was simply an exercise in character development.

Character Driven, each one has their own story.
The light-hearted, comedic, totally commercial writer that I thought I was, no longer existed.  I was introduced to my story that day.
What I forgot to mention above was what the event was that I added to my story.  It is personal. It is reality based.  When I was in high school two students, athletes, popular boys walked out onto the ice of Lake Michigan and drown.  They were caught under the ice until spring.  This changed everything at our school, in our small town, and the lives of everyone at my school was touched by this tragic accident.

Huffington Post published amazing pictures of the ice on Lake Michigan, like the scene that attracted the two boys to explore many years ago.
All these years later, I hadn't given too much thought about the actual event.  When I was creating teenage characters and events for my book it seemed like a good climax.  However, I added this accident without actually revisiting those feelings from so many years ago.

I'm writing fiction, not non-fiction so exact details weren't necessary. (Right?)
When both agents told me my story was based on these boys and how it affected the characters around them.  My story was born.  This story has been in me all along.
It hasn't been an easy process for me.  Somedays I sit with memories and I don't write a single word. On days like this,  I'm at best able to record an emotion or feeling.  Other days I create the story for my characters. The next day, I might change it all.  But, EVERYDAY I feel the weight of this story in my heart and in the pit of my stomach.

The writing isn't easy


The writing isn't fun


The writing is important, like breathing.

When it's all said and done, I hope my story makes it into the hands of a teen who's feeling the loss of a classmate, boyfriend or best friend. 

1 comment:

  1. nice! and wow -- I so haven't thought about the horrific ice incident in years...