For book number FOUR, I wanted to write something outside the comfort of ‘write what you know. Not that I really know anything about murder, or being jilted, I wanted to write a story with more depth, more emotion…just more.
Something, I thought, about interpersonal relationships, and how the convoluted thinking of one person, can have ramifications for others, for years to come. A human interest story with strong characters the reader could connect with, enough to want to stay with them on their journey of discovery.
By the time I’d completed the first draft, it was more than 400 pages long, double spaced mind you, and over 100,000 words.
The research was intense; the topics personal, thought provoking and, at times, emotionally draining.
One of the problems with research is the potential to get side tracked. Time spent reading articles that may veer off topic, is not really time squandered, for you never know when that information might prove valuable.
It’s like You Tube. Somebody sends you a link to You Tube, and for the next hour you’re watching all these other videos selected from the ever changing side bar. Or Pinterest, that’s just as addictive. But I digress.
For this book my research centred on adoption, and World War II. Two subjects completely outside my personal knowledge or experience.
My focus was on adult adoptees, searching for their birth parents. I found sites that detailed the red tape involved in searching sealed files for adoption information, and support organizations offering aid and advice.
But the stories from adoptees, and birth families, gave a picture of how difficult, and often futile, their searches were, in a way the government rules, regulations and forms could not.
I talked to people with first hand experience in searching for a child given up for adoption. They all felt the same frustration, had all suffered through the ongoing bureaucracy and the endless waiting.
I wanted a character to have a war time experience that fit with my plot, and was at the same time credible and based in truth. I immersed myself in the war, reading books and articles, even watching old war movies.
I had dates of battles fought, the number of troops mobilized and of course, the casualties. All the statistics of war. What brought it all into focus for me was a site I came upon, copies of original letters, written by soldiers while serving overseas. Letters mailed home, reflecting the harsh situations endured, the fear of the unknown, the need to stay connected with loved ones.
Then I found a search site, written by family members who wanted to understand what their father, or grandfather, had endured in the war, what was so horrible they would never, ever, speak of it.
The list was long, details of military history were given, requesting any information about the service of their relative. Most requests were initiated after the Veteran’s death, out of respect for their feelings, I would imagine.
I was moved beyond words, and in those readings I found my fictitious old Vet, my Sam.
I used only a small amount of that research in my book, but all of it gave me a better understanding of my characters, so none of it was a wasted effort. I’ll keep all my notes, all the printouts, along with a list of reference books and sites, for you never know, I might need them again, for some other story.
I gave this manuscript to a friend from my writing group, told her it was too long, and she gave it back to me with pencil notations and a large number of yellow sticky notes for where I could ‘slice and dice’.
I appreciate the effort she went to, believe me, as I have spent the last five days going line by line, looking at her suggestions, making some changes, resisting others, and initiating revisions of my own.
So far, I’ve decreased the word count by almost 5000 words. I bolded sections she suggested could be deleted, sections I was too attached to for now, and will look at the next go round.
I once read a book in which the main character was a published writer. In the book he talked about the status of his novels, at any given time. There was the one he was currently writing, a second he had just finished that was in the edit phase and a third that he had recently published and was doing promotional work for.
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? If that is a realistic representation of the publishing business, then I don’t feel quite so bad. I’ve been so inundated with editing and preparing to E publish, I haven’t written anything but a few short stories for the year…thus far.
There’s still November, National Novel Writing Month. More familiarly called NaNoWriMo, it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
I have lots of time to come up with an idea.