Monday, March 3, 2008

New Paths

For the past five weeks I've been immersed in the life of a woman coming to terms with the twists and turns and vagaries of her life. At times, she's felt like a pinball, simply trying to brace herself for the next blow before it smacked into her. She had thought for years, things were following a certain path, that her choices were leading her in a specific way, that she was in control, and that she was happy.

What did John Lennon say? Life's what happens while you're making other plans.

Well, that's what happened to Kate and to me.

I'd thought I had her figured out. I'd believed I knew her. I'd been sure I could tell her story. And, I'd been so busy being right I didn't take the time to listen, to really get to know her. Kind of like when a friend needs to talk and I am too quick with advice or counsel. I get so busy helping I forget to hear what she's really saying or asking for.

Well, in the past five weeks I finally let myself meet her. I finally quit my yapping long enough to listen. To discover. To toss out all the clutter that got in the way.

And, I let myself find Kate. And in the process I learned so much about myself as a writer. It was all pretty cool.

So, my manuscript--re-visioned, revised, rewritten--is back on my agent's desk. Did I get it right? I'll find out soon. It certainly feels as though I did. But if it isn't there just yet, I know to trust Kate to show me her world. And she trusts me enough now to let me into her heart. She knows I'll listen before I start writing.

In the meantime, I intend to get caught up with my blog posts. I've also got a project waiting for me on the dining room table involving lots of frames and even more family photos. I've got a stack of new recipes to try. And I've got a whole new set of characters whispering to me, wanting to let me into their lives, their fears, their hearts. And this time, I've promised to listen more carefully than I did with Kate.

P.S. I also have a new blog post up at the group blog I belong to. It's not about writing, but if you have kids applying to colleges, you might want to check it out.


kristenspina said...

Judy, I can't wait to read the new book and get to know Kate, myself! And you have to promise to share your best new recipes...that is definitely an interest we share.

Lisa said...

I can't wait to read the new book also. I like what you've posted here about listening to the characters. I've been thinking about that a lot too. Last night, for the first time I went back and read "the foundling wheel" all the way through from chapter one and I was shocked at how much back story I tried to cram into chapter 2 (I had a few other surprises that the distance gave me too!). But I was thinking about how I often feel like I'm overwriting the first time through so that I can find the character and then a lot of that stuff can be cut because the reader doesn't need to know it, but I did. At this point, I feel like I need to figure out more about Aaron and a lot more about who Tracy became in the 20+ years since the whole baby thing took place. How did learn that you hadn't been listening to Kate and what kinds of things did you discover when you listened? Great post -- and perfect timing for me to read it.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Kristen--count on me sharign recipes--I've already got a few new keepers--I'll post them to the blog in the next few days!

Lisa--So glad the timing of this post worked so well for you. I think one of the things I hadn't done enough of with her was to really figure out who she was, what had shaped her. So I was busier writing "about" her rather than "through" her. I'm not sure that'll make sense to anyone but me. I also plan to think more about this and blog more about it in coming posts.

Lisa said...

Nope. It really makes perfect sense. Thanks!

April said...

Yay for you! Now, I still don't have an agent, and I don't have anything published, but I went through the same thing with my current WIP. I had so much written, but suddenly I realized that it was all wrong. I was making my MC something she was not, thinking I knew her when in fact I didn't know her at all. I took a note pad and wrote down questions and my MC's answer to them and realized I knew who she was afterall, I just didn't get it right the first time. Then, the whole story fell into place.

Who knows. Maybe this will be the one to find me an agent.

I'm excited to read your new book!

debra said...

Your first book touched me deeply. I look forward to the next one(s)!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

April-What a cool idea--interviewing your MC. I may try that with the next book!

Debra-Thanks! I can't wait for it to get out there.

Melissa Marsh said...

I'm here via Lisa...

I've had the same problem with my main character - I thought I knew who she was, too. Turns out she is challening my idea of who she REALLY is - and I better sit up and pay attention.

All I can say is, thank the good Lord for revision!!!

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Hi Melissa--Thanks for stopping by. Those characters have a way of wanting their own say, don't they? I've come to really believe the first few drafts are our way of getting to know them. And just like my kids, they're going to force their way through--I can only shape them so much!