So you may have heard me talking about my Alcan book, perhaps more than once. You’ll probably hear me talk about it for some time in the future, too. Let me explain:
After I finished the Gold Rush series, I set my sights on World War II in Alaska. Lots of interesting things happened here during the war; for example, did you know Alaska was the only U.S. territory held by the Japanese? And for a variety of reasons, I decided to start with the building of the Alcan (Alaska) Highway in 1942.
I started researching the Alcan in the summer of 2013. By that fall, I had a concept for a novel, and started writing. I finished the first draft the next year, and my critique groups were great about reading chapters and giving me feedback over many months. I toiled away through several drafts. This spring, after many rounds of revision and editing, I thought I was almost done with the book.
But I knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t quite there. I felt it was pretty good writing, but it wasn’t quite gelling. I couldn’t put my finger on the problem, even after a few comments from agents. I set the book aside briefly, then went to the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference in June. A discussion with author E. Lockhart helped me see some issues with the novel. Then I had a conversation with agent Andy Ross. He finally looked at me and told me it sounds like I have a YA heroine and a hero that is NA or literary.
Ah!!! A light bulb probably appeared over my head at that moment. That made sense to me. But of course it wasn’t an answer I wanted. I had two choices: write two different books, or change a main character.
I let my brain percolate on that a while, and decided to change my hero. I came up with Charlie. I started writing the new novel. I did “cheat” a bit, using some of the descriptions and historical events from the first book, and we’ll see how many of those need to be cut or changed in future rounds of revision. But I’m proud to say I finished the first draft on Friday (August 21, 2015)!
Now, I plan to let it sit a bit, then revise and start showing it to my critique partners. We’ll see how many rounds of revision and editing this book will require. But if my past experience is any indication, I will be working on this novel for months.
Some might say I’m crazy to keep pursuing this. (Or at least that I should be sick of the Alcan by now. I’m not, for some reason, which makes me think I need to tell this story.) I don’t even know if what I’m working on now will become a published novel. But I trust that I’m doing what I need to do as a writer. I’ll keep following the process (lather-rinse-repeat) and see where it takes me. I expect to have better writing skills, and hopefully a better book, to show for it in the end.