Monday, December 3, 2012
Readers Motivate Me to Write
What if someone left an inheritance that depended upon the recipient spending time in Montana with the decedent's friends? That was my premise before I wrote The Scrimshaw Set. I told the story of a young woman, Emma Favager, who was not allowed to see her grandmother, Frances. Then Frances dies and leaves an inheritance with the stipulation that Emma needs to spend time with her friends, Carole Wylie and Phyllis Carle. If Emma's written observations about the friends agree with Frances' opinions of them, Emma will claim her inheritance. Emma is anxious to pay down her college debt so she can pursue something other than family law. She is burned out on divorce and custody cases. Frances' old flame, Harold Lowe, is an attorney in Buffalo Jump near Great Falls. He gets to know Emma as she spends time with the residents of the fictional, small Montana town.
While I thoroughly enjoyed creating the characters and setting of the novel, I intended it to be a character study about Frances rather than a full-length novel. As such, I was satisfied that it ended when and how it should. It was not important to me whether or not Emma returned to Buffalo Jump or if she and Deputy Eric Knutsen moved beyond a casual friendship to something more serious.
The truth is I did not think The Scrimshaw Set was as good a story as The Sunset Witness, which is another short novel but more suspenseful and with dangerous characters and situations. I promoted The Sunset Witness and let readers find The Scrimshaw Set. So I was quite surprised when The Scrimshaw Set found more favor with readers. I was even more surprised when two readers begged me to do a sequel. One of them said, "Pretty Please." How could I not be moved to write a sequel? The problem was that I did not see myself getting interested in the story. If I wasn't interested in it, how could I expect readers to be interested? So, I did what all good writers do. I got interested. I sat in front of a blank screen, cursed the cursor, and started thinking. It didn't take very long before I could see the potential for a sequel to The Scrimshaw Set.
I remember feeling euphoric when I reached Chapter 5. Every day I wrote at least a chapter but only after reading those before it to get motivated. Then one day I realized I was adding chapters and moving down the road without looking back. There were times I felt uninspired, but I had a good story to tell, so all I really had to do was put one foot in front of the other. The plot seemed to unfold miraculously, like The Sunset Witness. I was excited about it. When I was too far along to turn back, I posted a thank you on Facebook for the two readers who encouraged me to write the sequel. I told them I hoped to have the novel finished by Christmas. Rather than publishing a separate book for the sequel, I will combine the first book and sequel into a new book. Doing so will make it easier for readers to refresh their memories of the original story. New readers will have both stories in one book.
Now, I'm in the editing phase. At first, I was disappointed with my writing, but I didn't know why. As I edit and remove wordiness, words I should never use, problems with tense, inferior words, and so on, I find myself getting excited again. I feel like a sculptor who has formed a rudimentary image and is chiseling it to perfection one stroke at a time. As I work on the forty-six chapters I thought I could not write, I am so grateful to those two readers who encouraged me to tell them what happened next. There were only two people who cared enough to encourage me, but writing for those two readers has been a reward in itself. Now, I know I am a writer. It's not because I was excited from day one about my idea. I'm a writer, because I can create on demand. Now, I'm hoping those two readers, and many others, will be satisfied with what I've done. Who knows? Maybe they'll encourage me to do another one.