Friday, February 27, 2009

Writing Journey: Part VIII

Part I Part II Part III Part IV
Part V Part VI Part VII

(Wow. This series is getting long . . .)

So Covenant wanted another historical from me.

Problem #1: Historicals take research. Research takes time. If you recall my previous discussions about trying to maintain a readership, I didn't have lots of time.

Up to this point, drafting and revising a book had always taken me over a year per book. I didn't have more than a year to draft and revise and polish before submitting something if I was going to "ride the wave" of House on the Hill's success as they'd requested.

This was April. I figured that any "wave" would be long gone if I didn't turn in a book by the end of the year so a new book could be out within a year and a half of HOTH.

Problem #2: What in the heck kind of historical should I write next?

I'd gotten enough reader mail to know that a lot of people were chomping at the bit to know what happened to Abe. Even though I had never intended to continue his story, I figured that a book about the next chapter of his life would probably work.

So I thought about him. I figured he'd go to California next, because that's what he'd been thinking about at the end of the last book. I knew Abe would never leave Utah without his mother, and she'd never leave Utah unless she could settle somewhere else with Latter-day Saints. California seemed to make sense.

Except that:

Research uncovered Problem #3. California at this point no longer had any faithful LDS groups. They'd all been called home to Utah. Any Mormons left there were basically apostate.


I vented my frustrations to my husband. I didn't know what to write anymore. He had a brain flash that made so much sense I don't know why I didn't think of it:

Why don't I write about another temple? I could do a bunch of novels about temples.


I loved the idea! But I still needed a new place for Abe to go. Thanks to a friend on the LDStorymakers list (the dear and late Linda Whiting), I was connected to historian Norma Ricketts, who had edited a collection of journals.

Her book was about the Honeymoon Trail, which Mormons in Arizona (there were lots of Mormon settlements there at this period! Yes!) took to reach the St. George Temple. (Another temple! This could work!)

Arizona Mormons went up the trail to the temple to be married or sealed, which is how the trail eventually got its name.

(Side note: Contrary, to popular belief, the nickname didn't get attached to the trail until a journalist dubbed it "The Honeymoon Trail" in an article in the early 1930s. But I digress.)

I researched my head off over the next several weeks, learning about the Honeymoon Trail and the St. George Temple.

But I still had no story.

I made notes in the margins, I jotted down ideas in a notebook, but nothing really stuck. I was getting panicky. I knew plenty about the trail. I could have written a paper about it, but I still didn't have a plot, and I had no characters beyond Abe.

Then one day, several weeks after starting my research, Maddie appeared in my head fully formed. I knew who she was. I knew her past. I knew what she wanted out of life. I knew her personality.

And I knew right away what my story would be about.

I wrote that book faster than any I'd ever done before, including research and revision time. I submitted it in December and crossed my fingers.


Kristina P. said...

I love reading about your process!

Oh, and I've been meaning to berate you. In the nicest possible way, of course.

On my Anniversary Inn post, I said, " without further adieu." Of course, it should have been "ado." I caught it later in the day, but that's what I need you for!!! Help a girl out!

Brooke said...

Thanks for sharing! Isn't it good that we have husbands to listen to us vent? It's cool that it came together so fast in the end.

NorahS said...

This is such a great series! I am really enjoying it.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I'm rather annoyed that I haven't yet read every single book you've written (though I'm deep into the most recent and loving it!), and so don't know the end of the story here. I'm impatient for the next post in this series!

Lyon Pride said...

I've really enjoyed reading your journey. It definetely makes the stories more real!

Heffalump said...

I love reading this series of posts.
I'm glad you decided to write about what happened to Abe. He was a great character and it was lovely to be able to read a happy ending for him.

Lara Neves said...

It's so cool to me how literally inspiration happened for you while writing this series. Very cool.

Josi said...

Oh, moments like you had discovering Maddie give me chills! Awesome, I love this story--keep it coming.

wendy said...

Well, you were definetly inspired to be a writer -------amazing how you were just led into that character. Writing an interesting post is hard enough ---I can't imagine putting a book together. When did you realize you had that ability??

Annette Lyon said...

Wendy, Ability? I have no idea. But I do know I had the fire to write since about second grade. Learning HOW took a LONG time . . .

Heidi said...

Wow! Good for you!

Melanie Jacobson said...

I think following your writer's journey is so fun!

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm a little new to your works but this story (writer's journey) is about "At the Journey's End," right?

Tower of Strength is your newest book, right?

Sorry, I should have done better homework. =P

Little GrumpyAngel said...

Learning about what it takes and the journey towards completing your book is very fascinating. Truly glad you're sharing this with us.

Suzanne Reese said...

Great ad! You made a good choice. And good luck with your release!

Julie Wright said...

Finding Maddie is a great story. I love it when characters come together like that! You are awesome!

An Ordinary Mom said...

I couldn't read this post last week because I was in the middle of your book, House On The Hill ... I didn't want any spoilers about who Lizzy would choose.

However, now I must go get the sequel from the library via interlibrary loan ... I loved this first book!


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