The evolution of a novel

I don’t know if I will ever stop talking about An Altered Ending. Maybe that’s a good thing, I dunno, but I do know this: It’s coming back out, and I’ve never been prouder of it.

Why? Because it’s finally the story I wanted to tell.

I originally started writing Altered January 2010. It had been in the incubator for four months with roughly five or six false starts and stops. While Ellen had always been who she is as we know her now: A young twenty something a little lost in life, raised by her single mother, and had a vegetarian diet, those around her had not. Claire, Angela, and Liam were all there in name alone, all of them having shaped and morphed into their final incarnations with each new attempt. And Simon, oh Simon, sexy professor that he is, hadn’t even been conceived until I started writing the first draft. Up until then Ellen’s love interest was a young, blond man from her past. His name was Aaron in every single start, though I never really figured out what he was about. Simon came into the picture when I started thinking of Ellen turning to an old, trusted professor for advice, and all of a sudden I could see her falling in love with him.

The version originally published by Girlebooks back in 2012 wasn’t that different from the first draft. While originally there was zero touching between Ellen and Simon in the past, it became impossible for that to make sense to me. But that wasn’t the only thing that bothered me about it, I just could never quite put my finger on why. By the time I started writing How We BeganAn Altered Ending was already in the process of being published. I already learned a lot more about writing, as well as me as a writer, so I knew the first draft of How was horribly flawed despite it being a nearly direct link to it’s inspiration.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where I really learned how badly thought out some of Altered was. My hands were tied, however, and I had no real way of fixing it. Not without, as I thought, writing a whole new story.

I didn’t like this idea. Okay, that’s a lie, I loved it. But only partly. While I made it a good chunk into the whole new version there was always something off about it. There were scenes I loved and will eventually find a home somewhere, but it felt like a lie. This wasn’t really them, this was Ellen, Simon, and crew playing make believe in another world.

Just as I was lost (as I always get when I’m faced with major writer’s block and lack of direction) Girlebooks ceased their author program and I was given back my books.

And here we are, months later, and Altered is the story I want it to be after a few simple changes.

Now, seeing as how this is already a long post, I will try to keep the rest brief.

What changed from the original version? A lot, and yet not much at all. It’s five years later instead of six, everything that happens plot wise follows the same line it did previously, it’s mostly in the gap between How We Began and An Altered Ending  that’s changed. In fact, here’s the main differences in point form:

  • Ellen’s mother has not been sick this whole time. While people can recover from Stage four cancer, it’s highly unlikely. Instead of her being sick from the time Ellen left university, she has only been knowingly sick of a couple of years. This effects other things, of course. Like:
  • Ellen and Simon stopped talking for another reason. I won’t get into details, but neither actually abandoned the other in anyway. In fact, they were headed in the right trajectory for a while.
  • Donovan is a much more prominent characterHere’s the thing: I loved Donovan. From the moment he was created I wanted him to have his own story. He still might, but he now plays a bigger part in Ellen’s past. The past without Simon.
  • DialogueSome conversations have changed. This is simply because past events, as well as some current ones, have changed as well.
  • Scenes have been cut. It’s all part of editing, and if I didn’t feel the scene was needed it was hacked. On that note, some chapters have been split apart to make them a touch shorter.

I am immensely proud of how this version has turned out. There are no more voices in my head questioning what could have been different. It’s a tremendous relief, and while I love these characters I’m glad to put them to bed once and for all. As I said, some secondary character may get his own story, much in the same vein that Eddie got his, but that won’t be confirmed for a while yet.

If you had read the old version, or purchased it and have yet to read it, e-mail me at megantrennett-at-hotmail-dot-ca with the file attached and I will send you the update FOR FREE! 

Why “Shipping” is so important.

It’s a term I hadn’t actually come across until a couple years ago, but I’ve been doing it my whole life: Shipping. As in rooting for a relationship in a book, television, movies, ect. It’s in every fandom across the web. My earliest “ship” was Link and Princess Zelda from The Legend of Zelda. It’s likely what drove my five year old self, who sort of idolized the princess and thought Link was goofy and charming, to have such a passion for a story that my current self knows inside out. Actually, I can carry on conversations about their fictional world and history than I can of my actual country.

But it’s important that fans have that drive, especially in chick-lit. If fans aren’t rooting for a specific relationship to happen, then they aren’t really connecting. Not that all chick-lit is romance based, but a lot of it is. And since shipping isn’t limited to romance (bromances and bffs), even the chick-lit based in friendships need to “shippers”. While many people wanted Rachel to end up with Dex in Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, there was a small percentage who wanted her to stay true to BFF Darcy. It’s what drives you through the story, to see who Rachel chooses. It’s the same with all works of fiction that involves relationships. If you don’t have that, then the reader isn’t going to be interested.

While I may not be an expert, I can say this is the most likely way to tell if you’re going to have readers turning pages to find out if they get their wish: shipping your own characters. Yep, if you don’t have a burning desire to see your love interests or future friends together (even if you know they won’t), then why would your readers? It will come across in your writing, causing the reader to become more involved with your characters lives.

But then again, I’m not an expert, so maybe not. All I know is that twenty-three years later I still get excited for that almost kiss, or even the hint of an ever after, every time I finish a Legend of Zelda game.

Everbody’s working for the weekend

It’s a topic my husband and I have discussed often: would we still work if we won the lottery. My answer is always yes, but my work isn’t exactly a daily grind. In fact, there’s a huge chunk of my family that don’t believe I work at all. Writing requires little effort, as does child care, apparently. But I digress.

Yes, I would still work. I’d just get to work more often, at a much more enthusiastic pace. I won’t be struggling to edit with the copious amount of fatigue that comes with chasing and entertaining a toddler all day. If money was no option, and we could live anywhere, we’d be back in our home province where there would be a line of family to babysit the munchkin that they currently don’t get to see that often. While my husband would toil away part time in the gamer store he half dreams of opening, I would spend my days with my characters. Not everyday, of course. A mental health day would be needed so I could spend time with my two favorite boys and not worry about the stuff I should be getting done.

Ah, to dream. But alas, I must continue on with the 88 hour work week until such a day comes that I become the main bread winner (hahahaha) or those seven magic numbers get called in our favor.

To be popular, a “Daily Prompt” post

It was a question of literary standing or current best seller, and there isn’t a question as to what I wanted.

I would love to be a best seller.

And not for the reasons everyone thinks people want to be. Don’t get me wrong, money would be great, the perks that usually come with your books selling hundreds of thousands of copies  not something to turn your nose at.

But I want to make people happy. There is nothing better than getting lost in a book, even if it’s not high brow. Some are great, like Pride and Prejudice, but they’re not for everyone. I can’t really say I’ve finished a lot of the classic, literary books. A thousand Leagues under the sea when I was much, much younger and to the point that I don’t even really remember it. But my shelves, both physical and digital, are filled with modern best sellers, and maybe some that never made it that far but are from the last twenty years. I have a few of my favorite reads from school that my husband had never heard of, a few Christopher Pike favorites that I’ve read and reread so many times that I had to find replacement copies. Namely the Remember Me series. 

Most of the books I own will not be studied in decades to come, but I love them as they are an escape. I don’t need to feel smart while reading, I just need to get lost in someone else’s life for a while. 

It’s the same with my own writing. I am not literary, I know that my writing isn’t even close to high brow, will not spawn deep conversations on the meaning my work will have, or why it’s so important to the world of literature. It’s not. If anyone’s talking about it it’s between friends, a book to read because it was (hopefully) good, and they enjoyed it, and “Oh my god, you should read it.” 

So if there is a witch out there with this kind of power, and she’s happy to grant me one of these two possible wishes, I will gladly take the latter. I don’t need to be remember for centuries, or even decades. I just need to be read.

Daily Prompt: Writer’s Block Party

When was the last time I had writer’s block you ask? I often feel like more the accurate question is when don’t I have writer’s block. But to answer the question is wasn’t all that long ago. Last week, I think. I was getting ready to start a very key part to the novel I was working on, and I wasn’t sure how to approach it.

It usually happens when I come up to scenes I know need to be in there, or just after key parts that leave me wondering where to go next. I don’t always outline, and when I do it’s mostly just to put the ideas I’ve already come up with in chronological order so that I can possibly fill in the blanks. But even doing this can leave me stumped, because there’s only so far i can think ahead. I usually let my characters dictate the direction of the story, and while that should allow for less blockage they’re often as clueless as me.

In the case of last week’s writer’s block it was trying to link two things, bringing them together without it just being filler. I think I went about three or four days without really writing a word. It doesn’t help the blockage when I’m also too tired to write, so I couldn’t muddle through it by writing junk and hoping to get something out of it. I had to resort to one of my tried and true (but hardly productive) methods of working through a block: doing nothing.

Okay, so it’s not nothing, but it may as well be. I usually listen to my novel’s playlist and either play a version of solitaire or browse the humor boards on Pinterest. While part of my brain is doing something mindless I’m having conversations in my head with my characters. Or they are with each other, either crazy sounding way it usually works well for me. Even if I’m physically too tired to write I can at least jot down the ideas that come to me so I won’t lose them.

It’s the best way I know how to beat the thing that plagues every writer. Just as everyone has their own way of dealing with a cold, I think every writer is different when it comes to clearing out writer’s block.

How about you? How do you get rid of writer’s block? Let me know or post a link to your blog in the comments.

“I enjoy writing about people falling in love, probably because I think the first time you fall in love is the first time that you have to figure out how you’re going to orient your life. What are you going to value? What’s going to be most important to you? And I think that’s really interesting to write about.” -John Green.