Friday, March 20, 2009

Writing Journey: Part XI

Part I Part II Part III Part IV
Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII
Part IX Part X

(I know I've already said so, but I had no idea I'd be carrying this series on this long . . .)

Somewhere along the way as I was researching the Salt Lake Temple and bemoaning the fact that I couldn't do my really cool idea for retelling Much Ado about Nothing, I had a brain flash:

Why the heck not?

(Sort of a V-8 moment.)

So what if I'd originally imagined the retelling in a contemporary setting? Who said I couldn't retell the story in the 1800s?

And thus the plot and characters for my next book were born. Instead of trying to adapt Shakespeare's story to the twenty-first century, I could make it work in the mid-1800s.

That meant figuring out a lot of plot points: in what way could the Claudio character mistake one woman for another and how could it be believable to the reader? I came up with using a situation involving a photograph, which necessitated research into the photography technology at the time.

The technology had to dovetail with the temple history, preferably at a point in the construction where something interesting was actually happening. Those two factors are what led me to zero in on 1867 as the year the story would take place, making it my earliest historical.

I pulled out my volume of complete Shakespeare and reread the play. Sometimes I had it next to me as I drafted. I cannot tell you how much fun some of the scenes were to write, especially those between Ben and Bethany (Shakespeare's Benedick and Beatrice). I purposely mirrored much of their dialogue. There were times I found myself laughing aloud and grinning ear to ear.

Part of the joy of adaptation is that you can change things. For my story, I decided to combine the characters of Don Pedro and Don Jon, but only as far as their plot purposes, not their actual personalities.

Don Jon is the villain in the play. He purposely sets things up to go wrong. Don Pedro, on the other hand, is a good man who figures out that Benedick and Beatrice still have feelings for one another and decides to play cupid.

I gave Phillip both jobs, but I had him inadvertently cause the problem Don Jon purposely sets up. Phillip is good like Don Pedro and would never intentionally do something villainous. That's why his name starts with a P instead of a J.

(Contrary to what some readers have thought, no other character plays the part of the villain Don Jon. Which is why a certain person's name I won't mention also doesn't start with a J.)

One big change came when I was more than halfway through the first draft. I suddenly realized that the characters would not play out the story the same way the Bard's did. There was no way I could redeem the Claudio character the way the play did. It wouldn't work, for starters, because the further I got into the story, the more I realized that the Hero character would have none of it.

Then out of the blue, Phillip started doing all kinds of things that threw a pretty darn big wrench into the original story.

(I'm trying hard not to include major spoilers. I'm hoping that only people who know either the play or Spires of Stone will know what all this means.)

Instead of freaking out and trying to force my characters back into their proper roles, I gave them free rein, and they played out their story the way they wanted to.

Things morphing at the end of the book necessitated me going back to earlier chapters and changing quite a lot there. I went through more drafts than I'd done in ages on any other book.

When I finally submitted it at the end of the year, I was pleased with the way it had turned out. I didn't bother attaching a title to it, because 1) I'm bad at titles and 2) they always pick the title anyway, so I just submitted it as my "Salt Lake Temple Book."

When it was accepted (for another fall release!), I was thrilled.

Sometime in February, my editor sent me the reader evaluations and asked me to do some revisions based on what I agreed with in them. (One of the eval suggestions: It needs a better title. Um, ya think?! I laughed.)

My editor said some areas needed rewriting, but didn't really point me in a direction. I had almost a month to get the new version to her.

A simple request, one would think. I'd done revisions before, so I wasn't worried.

I should have been.

Today's tour stops:
Write Bravely
Regarding Annie


Kristina P. said...

I love the cliffhanger ending.

Luisa Perkins said...

What Kristina said.

Rebecca Irvine said...

I wish I could read your earlier drafts to see how it all changed. Spires is a great book.

Laura said...

Among other things, I just noticed that you must be a serious morning person. I was just telling my Miamaids on Sunday that I didn't know why we weren't all created like that. But I digress.
I appreciate you sharing your journey with us. I love the way characters take on a life of their own, and veer off into places I never saw coming. It's the magic of writing. Thanks for taking us there with you.

That Girl said...

Oooo ... good ending.

(And I LOVED the V8 moment. Fabulousness!)

Janette Rallison said...

Yeah, I'm right there with you on that revisions thing . . .

Erin said...

It takes so much thought to write (and rewrite and rewrite) a book. I don't know how you have the patience to do it!

Unknown said...

Congrats on the excellent Meridian review, Annette. Very well deserved, as always. I do so enjoy your books.

Anonymous said...

I love Much Ado About Nothing so I think Spires of Stone will be the next book of yours I read. :)

Annette Lyon said...

Laura, I WISH I were a morning person! I have writer friends who get so much more done because they can get up and write at 5:00 am.

Me? Nope. It takes me hours to really wake up.

Loralee and the gang... said...

Hi Annette-
I just got your book in the mail and I am so excited to start reading it.
I want to do a little post on my blog about winning the book, and link it back to your post where you announced it (I gotta have proof, you know?), but I couldn't find it! Can you help me here?

Josi said...


Tristi Pinkston said...

I'm having the most fun reading about your journey! So what if it's going longer than you thought - it's interesting!

Anonymous said...

i just found your blog through motherboard...

i love word nerd. if you come over to my blog, don't judge me though. i'm lazy, not stupid;)

which book should i read first???


Chas Hathaway said...

This is a fantastic series. I've been reading all of the entries. Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

Trying to get into this market is terribly challenging, and it's inspiring to read your account of your frustrations, your concerns, and your success.

I'm learning so much, and getting a lot of great advice from this series.


- Chas


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