Five months ago I sat on the back porch of a rented house in Georgia and I was inspired in a way I had never felt before. The air was warm and smelled of pine forest. Birds chirped and a river bubbled over rocks far below. A salamander came to visit but otherwise I was alone, the kids still asleep inside after a late night.
I grabbed my laptop and words flowed from my fingers as I worked on the post that inspired my new novel. The word of the day was Limerence, not an easy word to work into a post:
Limerence is a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes obsessive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love and have one’s feelings reciprocated.
I wrote a few sentences, just 2 paragraphs – one that never even got posted:
My heart pounds in my chest and my stomach churns as I look nervously around the wooded driveway of the rented cabin. There’s no way he could have found me here, yet the extent of his obsession makes almost anything possible. With one last glance behind me the key slips easily into the lock and I turn it while pushing the door open at the same time.
As I twist quickly to shut the door behind me, the backpack on my shoulder knocks over the lamp on the small table, shattering it on the floor. My already frazzled nerves cause me to jump at the sudden noise in the silent house. I turn the deadbolt and place my bag on the hardwood floor at my feet as I lean back against the solid wood door.
I liked it, but I didn’t feel like I would be able to slide in the word so I kept it but started over.
From my rocking chair I could see the odd staircase that led down to the river. I could see a woman walking slowly down, lost in thought. In her reverie she is comparing someone she knows now with an ex – an ex who had turned out to have a crazy obsession. Yes! This worked with the word perfectly, and I posted the following:
The girls eventually got up and we were off tubing in the river and exploring the area, my post forgotten. The next morning I was once again up early relaxing on what I was starting to feel was MY porch, ready to write another post. The unpublished words from the previous day were still up in a web browser, right where I’d left them, waiting to be turned into something more.
As I reread what I’d written I saw a connection from the previous day’s post. The frightened woman who locks herself into the rented cabin is the woman who later walks down the staircase to the river. On the staircase she is thinking of the ex she had been running away from, the crazy obsessed ex. The man on the porch watching her walk down the staircase, the one who saves her from falling off a landing that has no railing is there to protect her from the ex.
If you were following me over the summer you will have read about some of what happens with the ex, who is now named Clay and the hero who is named Caleb. These parts of the story were posted completely out of order and I explained in the post below what these characters meant to me, because the story is deeply personal even though it’s fiction:
September 16th I posted my last post about the story. I felt I had enough content and I was anxious to start editing. I had put all of my posts into a separate document, in the order I envisioned them actually unfolding, so I printed that document – over 100 pages – and set to work. Only when I began this did I realize that I still have a lot to learn about writing. The posts made for pretty good blog posts but it certainly wasn’t what I would consider novel material.
The more I crossed out and rewrote the more frustrated I became. I borrowed books from the library, trying desperately to learn what I would need to do to fix what I had written so I could turn it into what I felt had potential to be a truly riveting story. And I have made significant progress. This has taken time away from blogging but in the end I think it will be worth it.
Many books have helped me understand dialog and character development, the use of similes and metaphors, plot and subplot, etc. But the book that has been most helpful has been Revision and Self Editing for Publication: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Novel that Sells by James Scott Bell.
Thanks to this book I have begun completely rewriting what I had written, words I now consider more of an outline than a draft. The rewrite is moving slowly but I love what is forming. It’s better on an order of magnitude I never would have expected. There will be other drafts after this, I have no doubt. I may end up working on this for a year before I’m ready to put it into print – I hope not longer than that.
It’s sometimes hard to put so much time and effort into a project, not knowing if anything will come of it in the end. I am working on faith and at times I wonder if the sacrifice is worth it. I believe that it is but time will tell.