Shifting Mental Gears While Shifting Story Gears

It’s not easy for me to leave behind one story idea to work on another. For the first time in three years I’m working on a story that doesn’t include James and Sarah Wentworth, and I have to admit it feels a little strange.

I began writing Her Dear & Loving Husband in April 2009. I worked on that, obsessively, for two years until it was published in April 2011. Then I spent the following year researching and writing Her Loving Husband’s Curse, which came out in April 2012, and I’ve also been plotting the course of Book 3, which will be out in 2013.

Now, with Copperfield Press going strong and Books One and Two of the Loving Husband Trilogy selling well, I thought it was time to get Victory Garden ready for its close-up. I’ll have more to say about the revising and editing process for Victory Garden in a future post, but for now I’ll say it needed more work than I thought it would. When I began the revisions I felt…odd somehow. How strange, after three years of living and breathing the Wentworths and Salem, to be back in New York City in 1917 during World War I and the Woman Suffrage Movement.

I’m not in mourning exactly since I’m not done with the Wentworths. I expect to write the first draft of Book Three this summer so I can have the final draft ready by next spring. But it’s not easy for me, going from one imaginary world to the next. I had to switch my mental gears so I could revise Victory Garden to its best potential. First, I had to admit the problem—that I didn’t feel comfortable back in this world I had created in 2005. Then I had to settle myself enough to make the shift. I kept stalling, avoiding the work because I felt so peculiar about it. Maybe other writers have an easier time moving from project to project, but my fictional worlds are so real to me that it’s a shock to my system to spend my free time with anyone other than the Wentworths. After a few false starts, I finally opened my copy of Victory Garden and started reading. Once I read through the novel again (I hadn’t looked at it in a while), I rediscovered the connection I made with Rose Scofield seven years ago and I was able to go forward from there.

To continue my immersion back into Rose’s world, I used one of my own tips for writing historical fiction, and I listened to music and watched movies from that time. The music is upbeat and ragtime, and some of our most famous patriotic American songs came from World War I. The moving pictures were flickering, silent, and amusing in a unique way, so different from the CGI we’re used to today. When you watch a silent movie, you have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks since there’s no dialogue to guide you. Even the dialogue tags that flash occasionally across the bottom of the screen are brief and far between. Fortunately, Turner Classic Movies shows a number of silent movies, usually in the nighttime hours, and it was easy for me to find a few to watch to put myself back into this era that in many ways was the beginning of modern times. The recent Academy Award winner The Artist is a wonderful homage to silent films.

I’m comfortable again in 1917 New York City. While I see some bits in Victory Garden that need fixing, I also see the backbone of a story that I think is as timely in 2012 as it would have been in 1917. Really, it was only a few days of discomfort, this strangeness that comes from shifting mental gears so I could work on different story, but I had to work past it so I could give this different story, one without any vampires even, the chance to be the very best it can be. And now that I’ve had some time away from James and Sarah, I think the brief distance was a good thing. When I buckle down to write Book Three, I’ll be ready to go.

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2 thoughts on “Shifting Mental Gears While Shifting Story Gears

  1. i am a readaholic, i guess you could say, and since i often have more than one novel going at a time, i can understand how you as a writer might have trouble switching gears mid-stream, as i sometimes do while reading. Keep it up, i’m sure you are doing okay.

    • Hi Marianne. What a great point you bring up. As an avid reader myself, I only like to read one book at a time, so looking at it like that, it’s not a surprise that as a writer I have a hard time dealing with more than one story at a time. Thank you so much for the encouragement. I really appreciate it!

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