Contact Me

Email me
"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Monday, February 27, 2012

How Strongly Do You Feel About the Story You're Writing?

This was the quote of the day recently sent to my mailbox:

"The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment."

-- Earl Nightingale

I thought the timing was freaky because I'd been thinking about all the story ideas I have in the hopper.  It takes me so long to write one manuscript that my story ideas stack up like the books in my "To Be Read" pile.

So near the end of last year, I sat down, wrote down the title or idea of each book I had in mind.  Next to each one, I wrote a brief note about whether I was mildly, moderately or strongly intrigued by the story still and why.

I had varying responses to the different novel concepts but here's where I hit a quandary.  As I've mentioned here before, I have a plan for a 3-book series (well in reality I have several book series in my head).  But I wrote the MIDDLE book of this particular series first, over a course of 6 long arduous years.  I loved that story concept passionately.  Still do.  I think it shows because this is the book whose first 15 pages won the ACFW Genesis Contest in 2010.

Here's the hard part.  That middle book is about an Army Major and what happens in his life after a family tragedy some years prior.

BUT--the first novel is about what actually happened to his wife.  But here's what I wrote next to this novel concept on my notebook paper:  "Not sure I'm intrigued.  I'm more interested in learning about Bill (the Army Major) through her story."

Hmm....  Now you may wisely say to me "Well nobody is making you write a series."  And right you'd be.  Ultimately I need to understand that if I don't have a passion for the story, it probably won't turn out as well as other books.  HOWEVER, I'm not yet willing to throw in the towel because of three things:

1) I have a deep aversion to books dominated by female protagonists because they make up the vast majority of the CBA market (though there are small inroads being made with having more male leads).  It's an aversion I need to overcome.

2)  Even though I don't have a sense of intrigue about the Major's wife, I do about the other major character in that first book, and some of the supporting cast.  Not to mention one of the supporting cast is crucial in books 2 and 3.

3)  I can become pessimistic about a project not because it has poor prospects, but because sometimes utter fatigue clouds my judgement.  It's darn hard work working full time, keeping up your household, church and other responsibilities and trying to write and research books all at the same time.  Burnout has been all too close a companion more times than I can count--therefore it makes me unsure of when to trust my instincts.

So while on the one hand I give credence to my gut-level assessment, I'm not ready to toss the story concept out.  I'll let you know how it turns out.  That particular manuscript is on my list of to-be-finished this year (it's at least halfway complete).

But what about that fulfillment mentioned in Mr. Nightingale's quote?  On a blog post recently at The Kill Zone, one of the authors mentioned that a lot of the time, a person's first novel doesn't get published's their first novel.  They are usually rife with first timer mistakes.

But you know what? I believe my first novel about that Army Major is going to be published.  I feel just as intensely about it as I ever did.  I haven't rushed to shove it under an editor's nose.  I'm taking my time.  Trying to correct newbie mistakes.  But I would definitely describe that novel as a path to fulfillment. 

I can't speak for his wife, but I know one day Bill's story is going to be out there for public consumption.  Either way, even as I move on and write other manuscripts, that Army Major has been a major stepping stone in my life. *-)


Nicole said...

If the Major's wife's story is told through his eyes, does that make it more "attractive" or doable to you? I suppose not if you're halfway through it . . .

B.K. Jackson said...

Unfortunately, in the case of this story, the Major CAN'T tell the story through his eyes, because he wasn't there (and hence the whole impetus behind book 2).

However, I HAVE considered the notion that I may need to switch the focus from my current female protagonist to that of the other major female character in the story who, at present, is more interesting to me.

It's a very interesting dilemma. The major's wife is not a bad gal. And she has a very powerful story of her own--but I'm not satisfied that I've learned how to redeem her yet. And that answer may yet come to me.

But that's the great thing about fiction--you can follow all kinds of paths.