Meeting a deadline is a wonderful feeling. Yesterday I sent the second draft of the plot of The Next Novel to Dan Smetanka, a wonderful editor who works freelance in LA, and who worked with me on Mistress of the Sun.
So now? Now I face the clutter of my desk, my unorganized To Do lists, mail to answer, my unwrapped and even un-purchased Christmas presents, a house to decorate, etc.
But even all this feels like a holiday, now that I’ve put the puzzle of crafting a novel out of the chaos of the 17th century behind me for a bit. Not that it won’t continue to be on my mind: one of the things I’ll do today is select the next research book to dive into.
I’ve never worked with an outline so systematically before. It’s over 20 pages long, and basically it’s a list of major characters, themes, and the story itself, unfolding in scenes. It was creating the scene-units that made a big difference, from generalizing a story, to actually seeing the workings of it, scene by scene. The scene descriptions are bare bones. For example:
SCENE: The Court continues on north, toward Paris. Claude’s father, ill, insists his acting troupe follow. “But how will you eat?” Claude: We will manage.
SCENE: Claude and her brothers beg for coins. She coaches her brothers on how to act injured.
How much of this will make it into The Next Novel? My guess is that a great deal will change. But the purpose of this draft-in-outline-form is to explore what might be possible, given the historical record. (During this process, I spent a lot of time research, as noted on my research blog.)
I read an interesting blog, yesterday, an interview with Davina, a NaNoWriMo participant. She expressed very well the challenge of telling a story that is based on historical fact:
One of my major difficulties I found was incorporating the research while sticking to the story I wanted to write. As I did more reading and research I realized that I would have to tweak events and timelines to get an effective story. There was also an expanding cast of people who needed to be incorporated. The story quickly became more complex than I originally thought it would, to be honest.
I did feel bad about stretching the truth in some respects to suit my story. For instance, Minette didn’t actually die of poison as in the novel. There is strictly no proof that Athenais was involved in Satanic rituals. Angelique de Fontages wasn’t poisoned, she died of a miscarriage. And the events of the story happened over a long period of times : nearly twenty years! But I had to make the decision to alter events as I saw fit to make a compelling story that I would want to tell.
Some of the events that happened according to the research were a bit OTT and I seriously wondered about toning it down as I thought no one is going to believe that in a story.
I’m in the same state. Right now, I’m trying to hold tightly to the historical record, but there is at least one development that I’m tempted to change for the sake of the story. We shall see.