Literary digressions

ursula-k-le-guin-quotes_8626-3I accidentally wrote a book.

This was not a case (as has happened to me a few times) where I began writing a short story and it just grew into something much longer than I meant. This time it was because I couldn’t finish a scene in the denouement of a book which I had planned as a book.

I had been working on the second novel of my Trickster series for a while. I had finally finished the the big climactic battle, and was working on the wrap-up chapter last September. I’d been struggling with one specific scene in that final chapter for more than a week. It wasn’t meant to be a super long scene (though when it was finished it was about 1200 words). I knew what had to happen in it. I needed to tie up one of the main plot lines and its most closely associated subplots…

I had a protagonist (with a shady past) who began the book being framed for some crimes he didn’t commit. Before he found the true perpetrator, his two young nieces were kidnapped by an enemy. Rescuing the children had come at a fairly steep price, so I had to have a scene with the surviving rescuers. There were also a couple of details that needed to be explained to wrap up a couple of loose ends.

I tried various scenes showing the surviving characters who had taken part in their rescue having a conversation out of earshot of the children. And none of them worked.

On the ninth or tenth night I sat down to try re-writing the scene, one of the characters (who happened to be the grandfather of the girls) told me that no way would he agree to step outside of the room where the children were sleeping to discuss something with other characters, no matter how important the conversation was.

The small children had been menaced in various ways throughout the book, and I realized that the reader would need more closure than having the other characters talking about the girls being safe at last. That’s when I realized that this particular grandfather was exactly the sort of person who, when setting off to rescue his granddaughters from a nefarious sorcerer, would pack among his things the favorite book of the youngest granddaughter. Because of course, the trip home would take more than a day, and of course he would need to read to her.

So the conversation between the adults was going to need to take place beside the sleeping children. But more importantly, the scene would need to begin with the grandfather reading the book.

As soon as I had had the idea of the grandfather bringing the book, I knew what the topic was (because I knew what the youngest girls’ interests were). So I tried to begin the scene with the grandfather reading the final passage of the book while one child has already fallen asleep, and the other is trying with all her might to stay awake.

But I couldn’t even write that, as well-defined as the image was, because everything I came up with for what might be the closing lines of the book just didn’t sound correct.

So, I opened up a blank file and typed the title of the little girls’ favorite book at that top. A stared at the blank page for maybe a minute before the first line came to me. And I kept writing, and writing until I finally reached the end of the book. It was just a touch over 2000 words long and had taken me not quite 4 hours. But it felt right.

I copied the final line out of the just completed book into the scene for the novel… and wrote for about another hour, and I finally had a scene that worked. A couple days later, I had finished the first draft of the novel.

The children’s book has been sitting on my hard disk, since. I have been reading aloud a chapter or two of the long novel each month to my writers’ group and getting feedback. I read that final chapter last month. So this last weekend, I read them the children’s book.

I’ve been writing short stories, novellas, and the occasional book for mostly adults for decades. I haven’t ever tried to write a children’s book before. So I wasn’t at all confident that it really worked. I mean, the closing line worked out of context for my scene, but that didn’t mean the rest of the book did.

The consensus of the group is that I need to find an illustrator and publish this.

Which opens a very different can of worms than I’ve done before. I have enough artist friends to know that creating a bunch of illustrations is a significant amount of work. I have no experience with children’s book publishers (and I know it is a very different ball of wax than the publishing I’ve been involved with).

So, this is going to be a learning experience and an adventure. I dearly hope it isn’t a misadventure, but there is only one way to find out!

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