It was around the beginning of November when it first occurred to me to write a story for my older son with him as the main character. I imagined writing this story and giving it to him for Christmas. I pictured his smile as he saw his name on the pages of the ‘book.’
Then I came back to reality: I’m not a middle-grade, or even a young adult writer. I write mysteries and fiction for adults. Even when I reminded myself of this, I couldn’t abandon the idea. I knew the story had to have a scorpion in it, because he loves scorpions. So, I started taking notes as he talked about friends at school, what he did at recess and began a rough outline for the story.
As my stories usually go, I started out using the outline, but then the story veered off path. I became more excited about this story. Instead of a simple mystery about a missing scorpion keychain (that he has on the zipper of his backpack), it became more of a spiritual story with paranormal elements. I worked on it nearly every day, and finally completed it the week before Christmas. I made up a simple cover, and even the ‘jacket’ blurb on the back flap, just like a real book.
The interesting thing is, that life played an important part in the core of the story – a part that wasn’t anywhere on my initial outline. Two days before Thanksgiving, my grandma passed away. Being eight, my older son knows what death is, but he wouldn’t talk about his feelings, and seemed embarrassed to cry about it. In the story, my son was able to cry and confront his grief, and in a dream, ‘talk’ to his great-grandparents, who let him know they are watching over him, and are taking care of Charlie (his Betta fish that died earlier this year.)
I read the forty-five page story to him and he liked it so much, he wanted me to read it to him again right away. I did get to see his smile as he saw his name in the book. He read a few pages out loud and my husband commented that it sounded like my son was really telling the story (he was – it was in first person. The mind of an eight year old is a scary place!)
This project was a departure from my normal writing, but it was a labor of love. I have to say, his reaction to the story is the best review that I think I will ever have. It affirms that I can tell a story that someone else can enjoy. And it makes the query rejections (or non-responses) for my first novel feel like…nothing.
I have also evolved; much like the story I wrote. I’ve spent the better part of 2010 obsessing over my first novel; the edits, the revisions, the synopsis, the query letter. As the year closes, I’m starting to accept that my novel may not fit in the mainstream. It may not be naughty enough, shocking enough or cutting edge. Maybe I’m not meant to be commercially published; maybe I’m supposed to do just what I’m doing now. I don’t know, but I’ll keep my heart open and will go where my prayers lead me.
Have you come to any realizations about your writing, or life, as you reflect upon 2010?