Like clipping and pruning back branches on a bonsai tree. Then we wire and train those branches to spread in the appearance of organic design reflective of the natural environment, taking careful consideration and steady hands. We have to make the right decisions. I’ve been revising Unsettled Between over the last two months and it’s been a transformative process not only for the novel but for me as well.
Writers get the pleasure of constant reflection, taking what’s occurred in our own life and looking for material. I’ve always used my personal experiences to write fiction. There is no better way to draw unique and resonate stories. When I have a personal investment in the story, I tend to write with more intensity. This transfers well to the reader. They get more emotion and have a stronger connection to the characters. When I can relate to a character, whether this is in likeable or unlikable ways, I tend to be more interested to know how the story will turn out.
I’m reminded of Alice Munro’s short story, Child’s Play. The main character is terribly unlikable. She’s bitterly judgmental and cold. Then ultimately she commits the worst act imaginable. I’ve read this story at least two dozen times, and I shake my head every time I come to the ending. Munro expertly develops a character who I simultaneously hate and for some reason: I can’t turn away. I have to read to the last word. And it pays off.
Then I wonder if this character’s personality is reflective of someone in Munro’s life. Where did she get the inspiration to draw such a character?
I turned in revisions for my novel, Unsettled Between, today. Today was the deadline. And I love deadlines. And I love feedback. Like cultivating bonsai, feedback and deadlines give me the shape and inspiration to complete a naturally flowing design for a novel.
And like anything worth doing, I learned something new about myself during this round of revisions. Or maybe it was a remembering. That I can’t force anything. The first month, July, I had such a hard time. I needed to replot my opening chapter so in essence it was going to become a different story, like making a tree into a bonsai–transformation was needed. It all came out and I was very pleased with the outcome, but the story seemed to want to do things on it’s own timeline. The story told me what it wanted. I didn’t tell it. This was something I knew–to allow the story to shape itself–but there was a part of me that wanted to force things to happen. And I was beat back everytime I tried.
Once I let go, the story wrote itself. It was organic. The branches grew toward the sun and it became a much more pleasing process. Certainly, I pruned and trimmed and clipped a few leaves here and there. What bonsai enthusiast wouldn’t? What writer wouldn’t? But I worked with the structure rather than forcing it. The two main characters, protagonist and antagonist, battled it out and wrote the story for me. I simply sat back and watched the story manifest.
Now I’ve given my novel, Unsettled Between, to my agent, Allie Levick. I’m excited. Nervous, yes, but ultimately ready for the good things coming. Whether it’s another round of revisions or steps toward acquisition, I’m grateful for the novel’s transformation and it’s becoming something unique and powerful. I reflect, now, on a year ago and remember how the novel was, thinking of the small growth and the subtle shifts. It has not only grown, but with expert hands my agent and I have shaped it into a very interesting story–so much so, this story is new in it’s form and concept, allowing me to dream of the moment when I can announce, “This is a story that has never been told.”
(Images borrowed from Pixabay.com, commons.wikimedia.org, and needpix.com)