Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Erin Healy writes supernatural suspense novels from a Christian worldview. She is also a career fiction editor and owner of WordWright Editorial Services in Colorado Springs.

People like to ask, “Where did you get the idea for that novel?” I find they’re often looking for the story behind the story, a dinner-party explanation of some adventure or epiphany that causes a writer to say, “You know, I should write a novel about that.”

Whenever this question comes my way, I experience a long and awkward moment of blankness. Because the truth is, I usually can’t remember.

Between the birth of a single-cell idea and the publication of whatever grew from that idea is a profound creative period of growth and transformation, in which the final product hardly ever resembles its starting point. (Yeah, kind of like a human being.)

I do recall the beginnings of my new novel Afloat, because it involved other people. My publisher and editor approached me with the idea that I should write
a “preapocalyptic romance novel,” in which the focus was on a blossoming love between two people in a harrowing and suspenseful crisis. We laid down a list of elements we wanted the story to have, including a setting in which the cast of characters was cut off from the rest of the world.

That last bit about the setting is the only element that survived the novel’s evolution. The rest of it grew, morphed, and expanded—not quite beyond recognition, but almost. Turns out I didn’t write a romance novel—but I wrote a great story about what it means to love others well when survival instincts kick into high gear. I didn’t write anything apocalyptic, pre or post, but the disaster themes served the microcosm of the story better than an end-of-the-world scenario would have. I didn’t dodge these goals because I have a rebellious streak, but because I followed the story where it led me rather than where I might have forced it to go. 

Still, a missed mark is a missed mark.

The frequency with which this happens is one reason why agents and publishers won’t even look at a fiction manuscript before it’s finished. They know how hard it is for writers to “tame the vision to the page,” as Annie Dillard says. Often we deliver something different from what we expected. Sometimes the difference is better, richer. Sometimes it’s not, as when the shift breaks the story’s promises. The powers that be prefer to avoid that kind of surprise.

My shot that went wide of the bull’s-eye might have been a disaster, but I’m fortunate to write for a publishing team that gives me generous creative wiggle-room. Not all of them do. In this case, the team liked the unexpected result. It struck a different kind of target. Our next discussion was about the ways in which the manuscript improved upon the original concept and the direction I should take in revisions to perfect it.

I don’t tell this story to incite a rebellion against your own story synopsis. But if you find the plot and characters taking on a life of their own, try not to be afraid. Turn them loose for a while, see what happens. You can always go back. (This is easier for seat-of-the-pants writers than for outliners. We fear losing control.) 

If you don’t have a publisher yet, allow the evolution of your story to be an exciting creative adventure. At the moment, you’re not locked into anything, not even the plot points you envisioned happening from day one. Those too might change—for the better, if you don’t hold your story in a creative death grip.

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

If you are writing to contract when your story takes an unpredicted turn, tell your agent or your editor what is happening. If you include them in the process, they’ll be more likely to come along for the ride. At the very least, you’ll benefit from their wisdom and won’t have to second-guess their expectations.

For me, where an idea came from is less important than where that idea takes me. Maybe this is one reason why I have so much trouble remembering the starting point. After all, where I end up is what’s most important to the readers’ experience.

Come back on Fun Friday for a chance to win a copy of Erin's latest release, "Afloat."

For more information on Erin Healy's books:

Erin Healy at Google+ 

Review of "Afloat" by G. Cline
3.5 stars

Afloat is a story out of my normally read genre, so keep that in mind. For this reviewer, the story dragged in the beginning--so many terrible events happening--but the writing is solid, with good imagery, and Tony and Danielle are very likable characters. The ending was excellent--better than I thought it would be. Very nicely brought together to tie up the spiritual and supernatural/thriller elements. 


Post a Comment

Newsletter Subscribe



Blog Archive

Powered by Blogger.

Historical Romantic Suspense

Historical Romance



Popular Posts

Guest Registry