When I first started writing my historical novel, I intended concentrating on the machinations of the Underground Railroad and how it operated before and during the Civil War. The working title when I first began was "Escape On The Train Without Tracks." I thought it was a catchy title.
I began this story as the 10 A and 10B assignment for my first course at the Institute of Children's Literature. At first, I just started writing what I thought I knew, and what I thought I wanted to write. My instructor was wonderful, loved the story, but told me I needed to do more research.
After I graduated, I took the first of two Advanced Novel Classes, and in the first one, began a new novel, and continued researching the Underground Railroad. My second novel course again concentrated on this one, but my instructor and I didn't see eye to eye on many things. She wanted me to develop a relationship between Ben, my 14 year old protagonist, and his father and older brothers to show why he (Ben) was so intent upon freeing his slave friends. Unfortunately, she wanted this relationship to take up the first five chapters of the novel. Five chapters? Before I ever got to the 'real' story, of the escape from the plantation and the hazardous journey to find freedom? Agents and editors would never know what the real story was about, and I would get nothing but rejections.
My instructor and I went round and round about almost everything I wrote. She corrected me on several things that, when I went back to my research, I found were wrong. That is, she was wrong, and my research was correct. It was not...shall we say, diplomatic? to tell her this, so I quietly accepted her corrections and criticism, and went about doing my own thing. Which was to write the way my research dictated. Still, the story was not going well. I was unhappy.
After nine months, I graduated from my second novel class. It was the longest nine months of my life...even longer than my pregnancies! We parted on relatively good terms, and I know she is a good instructor, but we were definitely not a good mix. The novel was finished. I was still unhappy.
Then came one of the worst moments in my writing life: reading through that novel, and knowing this was NOT the story I wanted or intended to write. There was only one thing to do: scratch nine months of hard work, and start over from the beginning. It was the demise of Escape on The Train Without Tracks.
More about my journey later...
Until next time,
That's a wrap.