|Cover image for When Hell Freezes Over|
I had an epiphany a week or so ago about my third novel in the Kirkland Family Saga, When Hell Freezes Over. I had written the ending and glued some scenes together. "I'm done with this -- finally," was my attitude, but I knew it wasn't really ready to be published. I'd asked a friend /writer to read it "as is" and give her honest opinion. She said she would be glad to do it, but she was out of town. She said I could send it first week in December.
With that kind of percolating on a back burner, I had this sudden knowing. It felt similar to the experience I had at the water faucet when Ronnie was paralyzed and dying, when I realized that "I can walk. Therefore I can do anything I need to do or have to do or want to do."
This time, the voice in my head said, "You already know what's wrong with it and what will fix it but you're in too big a hurry to stop and go back and do what you need to do."
And that voice is right.
I do know -- and I am going to slow down, relax and "fix it" so that the chances of it being as good a story -- or better -- than the first two are high instead of low.
I have written tons of stuff for this story and taken it out. I put it in a separate folder, which I usually call "out takes". I have one for every book. I also have the original manuscript and all successive versions. Lots and lots of stuff that points a finger at how rattled and uncertain I became regarding this story and how to best tell it.
Originally, it was a love triangle, between Travis Kirkland, now 24 years old, just graduated from college, and two sisters, Delaina and Kimberly, who is only fifteen years old.
Revis' point of view was just sprinkled in here and there and it felt obligatory. I didn't like that. So I decided to tell it all from Revis' point of view -- which meant that everything would be told through his eyes. Although I love looking at the world through his perspective, I couldn't adequately portray some of the emotions involved in this story without using other points of view. So most recently, I re-introduced Kim's and Travis' POV.
When I first wrote this story, I hadn't created the Kirkland/Logan feud. Compared to the first and second books, this story was too simple. It didn't have anything going on other than the love triangle.
So I focused on getting the feud worked in. Figuring out how to present the villain, Earl Logan, was a test for sure. I spent many hours on several possible options.
Even with all the rewrites that eventually brought about Come Hell or High Water and The Hell About Stallions, I never lost my ability to focus on either of them.
But I lost my ability to focus on the story while Ronnie was sick. I rarely opened the manuscript while he was dying. And to top it off, for the first time in my life, I couldn't feel Revis. I'm not sure who or what Revis is, but he has been a guiding force in my life -- all my life. He returned quickly but my ability to focus on one thing at a time is just now beginning to come back.
When I'm building a story, I have an internal clock/calendar that goes to work while I'm writing. This mental device stores all the information regarding what happened when. It's called a "time line". The information held by the timeline keeps the story moving forward. It helps construct the believability of what's happening. For example, The Hell About Stallions dealt with a pregnancy, the story had to fit within the time constraints of that situation.
Having a subconscious connection to the timeline allows me to open the book at any point and intuitively know where I am in the story. If something was going on in my life that prevented me from working on the story for a period of time, when I was able to return to it, I could read a few pages and immediately pick up where I'd left off.
Life derailed me in a way I'd never experienced before and now with this third story, When Hell Freezes Over, I've found I've lost touch with the time line. That has caused big problems.
When I open the manuscript every morning, I have little remembrance of what happened when in regard to what is happening in the story now. This has been my battle for four long years now, and it is hard to explain to folks who aren't fiction writers.
I have a theory about my own experience of being a writer. The whole story is in my subconscious mind from beginning to end. Every scene, every conversation, every single detail that will make the story the best it can be is in there, but I have to accept that and trust that everything will come to mind at the appropriate time.
Hitting the panic button is counterproductive. Pissing and moaning about having lost touch with the timeline is also counter productive.
In the old day of typewriters and carbon paper, I wrote from beginning to end. But now with the blessed invention of word processors, I often write scenes out of sequence. I also go back into the manuscript and "flesh out scenes", build the background so it's more of a tangible part of the story, add bits and pieces of personal background that makes a character come alive for the reader.
Writing scenes out of sequence, however, seems to make my problem with the timeline worse but since that's the way it's been since Ronnie got sick, I'm going to do my absolute best to get it all figured out and hopefully I won't have this problem when I start the fourth book.
For those of you who are waiting to read When Hell Freezes Over, I apologize for it taking so long to come to fruition. The story is moving forward very well now and I feel much more confident that when it's ready, it'll be a fun ride for everyone!
This is the experience I want my readers to have when they sit down and open any of my stories.