• Alyssa Rogan

Ramblings from a Fiction Writer's Mind


Writers flit between two worlds: reality and imagination. Here's a glimpse into my brain as it brims with ideas for book three while detaching from book two.

Last you heard, I had finished book two but was tentative about executing my idea for book three (you can read about that here). While I've forgone that idea for now, there's no saying I won't return to it eventually.

The problem was, I didn't have any other ideas stowed away (or none I wanted to pursue, at least). My brain was wide open--a vast, empty tundra with room enough to build a world I'd never explored before. A world lodged deep in my subconscious, begging to take shape. Every night before bed, as I propped my feet on the recliner in my room, I kept asking myself one question.

What do I really want to write about?

For the first time in years, I wasn't committed to anything, so I wanted to pick a story that coincided to what I was learning in life right now. I wanted to pick a story that challenged me. Scared me. Grew with me.

Even though I didn't have a story fully-fleshed out yet, I knew how to answer my question in small ways. For example, I thought it would be cool to set a story in the twentieth century, since it's been an interest--and inspiration--of mine the past few years. It started with the 1990s when I first discovered Boy Meets World over ten years ago, but it's slowly worked its way back to the 1960s (enter the Beach Boys).

Beyond just groovy pop culture from the recent past, I've become increasingly aware of current-day politics. For about a year and a half, I've made a conscious effort to stay engaged. Pay attention. Learn. Formulate opinions. With this guy in office, how could I possibly ignore it?

Alright. Twentieth century and something with a political landscape. But where? Maybe it's because my original plan for book three was supposed to take place in a snowy locale, but I decided I still wanted to do that.

No wonder I envisioned my mind as a tundra. My subconscious was trying to tell me something.

I just had to pick a moment in time that was not only politically charged, but somehow pertinent to teenage characters. As committed as I am to trying something new (like historical fiction), I wasn't planning on deviating from YA. I don't know that I ever will.

What I'm telling you now is an abbreviated stream of conscious that I experienced in late October. Admittedly, it didn't take me long to figure out what I wanted to do--maybe a week or two tops. Because I knew about three components I wanted in the book (political landscape, twentieth century setting, snowy locale), it wasn't hard to narrow it down from there.

Since the story's so young, I won't go into details. For a while, I need to keep this to myself. Let it simmer. Build momentum.... But for those interested in my writing (thank you!), I want you to know I'm excited. I've fallen headfirst into this new story, grasping bits and pieces of my everyday life to bring with me. A car parked on the street. A song. A conversation.

My new heroes are already camping in the back of my mind. Demanding me to get to know them, step into their world, their homes, their hearts... and I'm wondering if other writers feel the same way. Feel as if--instead of writing the characters line by line, piece by piece, the characters and their worlds are already fully-formed. As if they already have hopes, dreams and fears, and I simply am uncovering them as I observe them.

All the details are already there. The story is there. All that's left is for me to discover it like an investigative journalist. Or a quiet person studying a room of people.

This approach to creative writing makes characters feel like real people. It humanizes them. Reminds us that getting to know people takes time and attention. This is why I'm able to go into a second draft and deepen characters. The first time around, I may have an incomplete picture of them, but as I continue to observe, they become fully-realized people of depth.

Amidst all this excitement, I've been detaching from book two. It's a little sad, really. Pre-drafting and first-drafting are the times I feel closest to my book and characters. After that, time and rewriting and passing the manuscript along to beta puts distance between us. This second book is in the hands of five or ten people right now, so I'm actually thankful for the distance. Distance is what I need to shield me from the inevitable criticism of peoples' feedback.

Book two isn't mine anymore. My edits for the next draft will leave fingerprints that aren't my own. And don't get me wrong. I'm so thankful for people who can be honest about the weaknesses of my work and help me improve. But there's something precious and sacred about keeping a story to yourself for a while.

I imagine it's like being pregnant. For a moment you know something no one else knows. It's yours for the keeping until you're ready to share what's become an intimate part of you.

*note: the selected gifs are not random. They may or may not be cryptic clues of what I'm stewing up. Maybe.

#writing #prewriting #novel #booktwo #historicalya #historicalfiction

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