Working up a new story
Every author has her favorite part of the process. Some like opening that bright new page and typing “Chapter One” at the top. Some like to dive into the mist and find out where they’re going later. Some love the editing stage. I like the synopsis, which I always write first.
I can hear authors right now, going “Ewww!” and stepping back before the dreaded synopsis bites them. Maybe I should rephrase. The synopsis is the end product. All the cool creative stuff that comes before is my favorite part—the part that makes me feel like a kid because it includes mind maps and collages and notes to myself and bits of my heroine’s personality spattered all over my journal pages in all different colors. It means long rambles around the neighbor’s field with the chickens while I puzzle out why she wants what she wants. And whether or not she’s going to get it. And how I’m going to get her there.
Here’s my journal page for Emma, the heroine of The Hidden Life, book 2 in the Amish Quilt trilogy. She’s not a conventionally pretty girl, but she has a smile that packs years of friendship. She’s tall and rawboned and she wears glasses to read. She’s a bit of a rebel and this is going to get her into trouble. Here’s what I know at the start of this process—just a blurb that I sold the book with:
When you’re a teenager, being single and running around during rumspringe is exciting and exhilarating. But Emma Stolzfus is thirty and still not married, and it’s not so exciting anymore. In fact, it’s plain-down humiliating to be referred to as “the senior single” by everyone from the bishop to her own mother, and have only other people’s babies to look forward to on church days. Worldly girls seem to have so much more in their lives—and being single is seen as an advantage. But how can Emma risk losing her family and her faith when she makes a discovery about herself that could lead her outside the Amish world?
I have the first line of Chapter One. I know what the discovery is. I know where it will take her. But what I don’t know yet is whether she’s ever coming back from that journey—and how it will affect the other characters. That’s why this process is so wonderful. By the end of this weekend, I will know. And then I can hit “return” after that first line and just keep going.