Six Lessons Learned from Writing "Across the Distance"

#1: Books (for now) are going to take about three times as long as I anticipate. Except for “the great adventure,” I have gotten on a fairly consistent writing schedule when I’m at home. Even so, the book took much longer to sort through because…
#2: The butterfly effect is real. Originally, this book was a 50,000 word Nano novel. (For those of you who might be scratching your head, Nanowrimo is an event that happens every November where writers cheer each other on to pen an entire novel, writing 1,667 words per day.) My intention was to polish the writing with my years of gained experience and rework a few minor things, such as the fact that Clara’s grandfather does not die at the beginning of the book. I didn’t think that would change much since he’s not a big character, but, oh, baby! This changed this, which changed that, which changed this. The story grew from around 50,000 words to around 80,000, even though I cut a few of the original chapters. I suppose I wrote another nanonovel inside of a nano novel.
#3 Noveling is like writing a fictional biography: When I drafted “Across the Distance,” I fell in love with Clara and Andrew’s very different worlds. Since I wrote it, I’ve kept a journal for Clara and penned a good portion of Andrew’s adventures. Making the time travel story line up with what I’d learned about Clara and Andrew felt like writing a biography, sorting through a ton of information for the best tidbits to pull into Scarlet’s modern world. I also wanted to leave plenty of scenes for a future companion novel that has nothing to do with time-travel and everything to do with an Irish immigrant boy landing in the middle of a ritzy lifestyle and a curious girl whose biggest dream is to be allowed to step outside of her house. I needed to add enough into “Across the Distance” to make the story fleshed out and complete, but not so much that it bogged down Scarlet’s own story or started even more story threads which would add even more length. I think I’ve done it, but just to make sure, I celebrated the revision’s completion yesterday by making a backup of the tale and deleting it off of my kindle, sticking it into Steven King’s proverbial drawer. I’m going to let it sit for a month until I’ve forgotten most of it, then pull it out and hopefully be able to see what made it to the page.
#4: Writing While Traveling is Hard. The first three weeks of June I considered myself lucky on the days I managed 1,000 words. Those words were written early in the morning before (all but one) foster brothers were awake, or behind closed doors while eight of them enjoyed noisy summer afternoons. Veggie Tales were singing about a cucumber thrown to a fish; Lindsey was looking up newspapers about shipwrecks. Preteen boys in bathing suits having a conversation on the van seat behind the laptop; Andrew and Clara are whispering in the pantry. Two cups of coffee in the sunroom at Grandma’s; Scarlet is tripping an unwanted suitor. When disaster strikes from all sides and characters are plunging into despair, the car speaker is blaring baby songs on the way to the family and it is next to impossible to write a reflective scene on shattered hopes and lost memories. (You writers out there who can write while raising a family…you’re amazing. Teach me your tricks.) Some days, I didn’t write at all, focusing on family or the tropical storm which kept me from returning to my home on time.
#6: Routine is Key. I’ll be the first to admit that this ideal scenario does not happen every day. But when I’m at home and back into the swing of things, routine saves the day, every day. I start writing between 8:00 and 9:00 (or occasionally earlier, if my morning routine flies by or I decide not to exercise) and noon. I aim to write 3,000 words, or finish the current chapter, which is sometimes less. I can usually finish them before noon, but I’ll keep going if I need. And it works. I wake up excited to write. By the time I finish my “miracle morning” (something I’ve been trying on and off), exercising and making breakfast, I can’t stand another minute of waiting. Even when I get to the computer and find that I’m stuck and don’t know how to make a scene work, I don’t give up because I’ve learned to trust the process. My brain knows that mornings belong to stories. Sometimes it wants afternoons to belong to stories as well, but after lunch is when I make phone calls, do the housework, prepare for piano lessons, book signings or whatever the current focus happens to be. Tomorrow, it’s the battle with the lawn mower. But it works. After years of hem-hawing because I couldn’t decide which version of the story I wanted to write, I decided to listen to my readers and publish the version where a savvy teen girl gets dragged to this old house for the summer and ends up meeting a sheltered girl with a paranoid father who has rarely ever stepped foot out of the same house – only they travel through 100 years to do it.
It wasn’t short and sweet like I expected. It wasn’t a light edit and get it out there. It wasn’t produced in three months (which I’m being forced to admit is not yet a realistic timeline for a learning publisher.)
But four months later, I have an 80,000 word novel that captures everything I wanted to include. Hopefully, when I pull it back out in a few weeks, it really will be cohesive and just need a bit of tweaking and polishing. Because I love it, and I can’t wait for you to love it, too.


Excellent lessons and your accountability buddy needs to get on you more about your Miracle Morning. Keep it up! When you pull it out we’ll both be writting.

4 years ago

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