Right now I am playing the waiting game with Caroline’s Lighthouse. I received word today that the manuscript has passed the initial review process. It is with Archway Publishing undergoing content review and I expect to hear back within one month. Basically, they are checking for copyright violations, hate crime depiction or evidence of plagiarism. Since I have done none of those things, I am not worried. While I am not worried about those things, I am worried about some blatant error that I might have missed in the manuscript. Waiting is difficult because I am not a very patient person.
In the meantime, I am working on my next novel, which is a combination of two previous ones and will be a complete overhaul rather than the partial one that Caroline’s Lighthouse became. Caroline’s Lighthouse is aimed primarily at young adults, but adults can enjoy it too due to the fact that the epilogue is set present day with adult Caroline reflecting on her life. Plus, a lot of adults including myself enjoy well-written young adult novels. I loved The Hunger Games trilogy. I devoured all three books within five days to the point where I was reading in the car while my husband drove, during my lunch breaks and while cooking dinner for my family.
This new one, Jordan’s Sister, was originally a young adult, but has evolved into an adult novel. This is new territory for me. The themes are not as lighthearted as Caroline’s Lighthouse, and the main characters are in their early to mid-twenties. The characters are not squeaky-clean. They have flaws, bad habits and make mistakes. It was always a dark and twisty story. When I first wrote it, the two stories were about events leading up to a teen’s suicide and the events after in two parts. As I reread the angst and anger contained in the two stories, I realized that the real story is about the fractured relationship between the two sisters, Jordan and Taylor. I decided to delve deep into the reasons why the sisters have such a strained relationship using the backstory I wrote at 14.
Another new twist-I’ve decided Jordan is a famous actress, so I have been reading a lot of celebrity gossip for inspiration. Taylor has a dream of her own she is wanting to pursue. She has musical talent, but can she find the courage to step out of Jordan’s shadow? I have been studying songwriting and have Taylor’s song halfway written and Layne’s song finished. Jordan’s Sister is really Taylor’s story to overcome her own feelings of inadequacy. Originally written in first person, it will now be in third person so that I can help readers understand what’s going on inside the heads of the three main characters. There are other characters, mostly new ones, but only their actions will speak. I am not sure how many original characters I will pull from the first draft-most likely only a few.
So far, this rewrite is different from anything else I have ever done in the way I’m approaching it. Usually I have a clear beginning, highlights, and an ending in mind as I get started on a story. That is how I rewrote Caroline’s Lighthouse and every other story. I always worked from the beginning to the end. For Jordan’s Sister, I have an ending and lots of highlights, but I am not quite sure how to begin the story. I have a rough beginning paragraph, but I am not sure yet if it’s the right beginning to introduce the story.
So for now, I have a document named “Conversations” that currently contains 13,000 words of dialogue and limited narrative for conversations I envision between these characters. The conversations are witty banter, plot advancement, explanations for characters’ past actions, and general “getting to know you” speak. These conversations are things I can’t get out of my mind, so I am writing them as they come to me in no certain order. When I have exhausted that aspect of the story, I will probably know my beginning and can start piecing things together in some sort of coherency. At this point, I feel like I am getting to know these characters as I write about them.
And as I type this, I realize I am approaching this story the way I write poetry: Lots of scribbling, rearranging and revision before I know where it’s going or when it will be finished.
The best part though—I am so happy figuring it out as I go.
-Brandi Easterling Collins