We’ve started a movie unit in my English classes that’s based on the idea that the hero’s journey is at the heart of every good story. We’ve got the 7 steps of the journey committed to memory, we’ve watched Big Hero 6 and talked about its important messages, and we’ll soon be watching some of the greatest movies of the 80s (Breakfast Club; Ferris Bueller’s Day off; Stand By Me; Goonies) so that I can feel like I actually brought something of substance to these young people’s lives when they leave my class in June.
But now that we’ve turned the theory of the hero’s journey inside out, I’m left wondering how I’ve been missing something so big for so long: my current WIP needs a stronger, more defined hero’s journey. I mean, I like it, it’s okay, I love the setting, the characters are nice enough, but…duh. I’m on the fourth draft, and I just hit the spot where I realized that this is my main character’s “call to adventure,” and it’s not very much of a call at all. She sort of stumbles through this story without ever completing a discernible hero’s journey, and that has to happen. Whether we know it consciously or not, we don’t invest in a story where no one grows and changes. We aren’t interested in a main character who (however flawed) isn’t even the hero of her own life story. So even though I have the cover done and had hoped to publish this one by February 1st (which clearly did not happen), there’s still more work to do. Before I can call it a wrap, my main character needs to slay a dragon or two and return home with an elixir. Her romantic interests and the other people in her life need to clearly be allies or enemies, and there need to be more tests and obstacles.
It’s kind of frustrating when you realize how much more there is to do, but it’s also a relief to discover what’s missing. Bring on the 5th draft!
- A 75,000 word (currently) 3rd draft of the story I’ve been working on about a fictional island in the Florida Keys. The cover has been commissioned, my first draft readers (thank you, Jaime and Lyndsey!) have given me solid feedback, and my goal is to have it re-read, edited, and self-published by January 31st. (*Note to self: in the future, decide whether past or present tense is more desirable during the first draft. Combing through the third draft and changing everything to present tense is painstaking and horrible.)
- Draft one of the “American Dream” book Holly and I have been working on since summer. We’re halfway done. We can do this. The cover is made, we know what’s supposed to happen, but our engines stall when she decides that she REALLY needs to play Barbies today instead of writing with Mom–just this ONE. TIME. (The mom in me says, “Let her enjoy the Barbie-playing; it won’t last much longer…”)
- 30,000 words of a romance novel that I started in 2009 about a television producer who works on a reality dating show called Trial by Fire. Every time I re-read it, I pick it back up and peck away a little bit more. I really like it, but for some reason it hasn’t written its own ending yet. Huh. Go figure.
- Arguably the manuscript I’ve done the most research for, a 40,000 word work-in-progress called Year of the Rabbit. Set in early 80s Miami Beach, a pregnant teenager moves in with her uncle and his boyfriend, who is a drug dealer. I love this one…it WILL be completed!
- Book 2 in my Florida Key series. Book 3 in the series Holly and I write together. Intense self-marketing and promotion. Complete understanding of self-publishing. Eventual world domination. Naturally.
I love the start of a new year: it’s filled with days, and weeks, and months–so many blank, unwritten days on the calendar! I just talked to my students today about the difference between goals and resolutions, so I do understand that most of the above actually fall under the category of “goals” (given how much life gets in the way as the year evaporates before my eyes), but I want so badly to make 2016 a year that I look back on as a turning-point with my writing.
Last year I spent a lot of time reading and figuring out the nuts and bolts of self-publishing, and I also put a lot of energy into networking and finding people to do the things I couldn’t do, so this year I feel like my energy needs to go into the actual writing and promoting. So do I get up at 5am to write before work, or do I teach my kid to make dinner and drive herself to swim practice at night so I can spend my evenings writing? Decisions, decisions…Happy New Year, everyone!
We’re featured on the wonderful blog shesnovel! We’ve had the good fortune to be interviewed by the lovely and kind Kristen, and it’s so exciting to see our faces in her Featured Novel Writers section. Holly and I have been working away at book #2 in our series, and our goal is to have it done by January.
Fall got away from us as we got used to middle school (Holly) and teaching at a new school (me), but we’re still chipping away at our projects. I’ve got a first draft done (and a second underway) of my own contemporary fiction, and we’re writing together a little bit every day to get the first draft of our book done. I have grand visions of winter break being ultra-productive when it comes to writing, but the minute I start thinking in terms of word count is the minute that I get gloriously off-task, so…we’ll just see what we can crank out!
Happy holidays, and please check us out at shesnovel!
We finished the first run-through of our manuscript and sent it to three people this weekend, so now we just (im)patiently wait for feedback. I know the best thing to do during this rush of “we just finished a NOVEL!” adrenaline is move on to our next manuscript and keep the creativity flowing, so that’s what we’ll do.
The original idea for this series that we’re working on stemmed from Holly’s love of the American Girl books, and a unit at school last year that introduced her to pioneer girls and their diaries. After talking through what she wanted to write, we came up with an idea for the this series. Each book will be a standalone novel about a young girl who comes to America and lives her own version of the American Dream. Because each protagonist will come from a different country, it gives us the opportunity to research and learn about other parts of the world and other languages, and it also allows us to give some thought to what it’s like to be an outsider, a newcomer, a person who is striving for something and overcoming obstacles. Using fiction to understand life isn’t a new technique by any stretch, and while I know it will benefit Holly as she goes into middle school next year and broadens her own horizons, I figure it can’t hurt me to be reminded that everyone’s struggles are real.
Book 1 is about a girl named Iris from Holland (we’ll get back to her as soon as our first reader reviews come in from my parents and some trusted friends), but in the mean time, we’re starting to think about Book 2. Who will our main character be? Where will she come from and to which state will she go? Letting your characters come to life as you research them is an exciting stage of writing, and one we both enjoyed immensely the first time around. So here we go with a whole new set of characters and themes and places: let the games begin!