I started my historical novel, Chasing the Strawberry Moon, in September of 2008. Voila, after four years, here I am, working on the last pass, before submitting my manuscript for copyright. During that time, I have learned oogobbies, read oogobbies, written oogobbies, and deleted oogobbies.
I know now that most of the planning of my tale happened before the first words were plunked out on this keyboard. I was a lucky beginner. My inspiration came from my protagonist herself. She wrote a summary of her adventures titled The Freedom of the Open Road that she gave me, along with permission to use the bones of her story and the liberty to embellish it. The details of her 1939 journey were brief, a bit disorganized, and bordering on boring. But that’s what real life hands you – the routine, the day-to-day, the habitual. I knew it wouldn’t sustain a reader’s interest for long. So I read, researched, interviewed, learned new skills, toured, evaluated, organized, fantasized, and only then sharpened my electronic pencil.
My first challenge was deciding how much or how little of her story to include. Her book covered most of her life. She was sixteen when she left on this trip, turned seventeen while she was away, and returned in the fall to another year of high school. Sounded pretty mundane. So I invented a number of color-full characters to spice things up. Of course, that meant disguising names of towns, people, events, and history enough to retain the logic but lose the identities. Several exercises from class were extremely useful, some almost hilarious. My husband and I became adept at inventing what seemed like ludicrous occurrences in the “Twenty Things that can Happen” assignment. We would laugh over them and then I’d surprise both of us when the best of them actually fit into the story. Another accomplishment, my working synopsis, proved invaluable in helping me stay grounded in the correct time frame, location, and surroundings. And carrying a notebook with me to public places, keeping my ears tuned in to other’s conversations, (it’s called eavesdropping) proved most enlightening. Then there was fitting the slang used, the fashions worn, and the opinions and prejudices of the 1930’s into my narratives and dialogues.
So now I think all the loose ends have been stitched together, the hem finished, and the final fitting completed. If I had known in 2008 that I’d be devoting four years of my life writing – planning, thinking, dreaming, obsessing about this story, I wouldn’t have believed it would take this long or that I could sustain my interest in it. But here we are and soon there it goes. Now on to the next challenge: publishing. The plot thickens.