Research and Reflection: Personal Resistance
“When faced with a challenge, look for a way, not a way out.” David Weatherford
I’ve been on a year-long journey that has all but consumed my writing life (and other aspects of life that I’ve neglected along the way, including this blog/news). It involved careful review of prior research and in-depth reading of additional works related to the years of German occupation of Norway.
Before ODIN’S PROMISE I spent decades searching for the best way to share a very particular story of the resistance that I heard while visiting Norway. Eventually I found my storyteller, Mari, in journal entries of young people who survived those long years. Mari embraced and told my story, and she became very real to me in the process. She dug through the scrap heap of my failed attempts and the storeroom of research that filled my mind and created her own story.
To my deepest joy, Mari came alive for readers, too. I was perfectly content to let her live on in ODIN’S PROMISE and write about other characters and discover their stories. I never intended to (or learned how to) write a sequel or a series. But the most frequently asked question (FAQ) from anyone who has read the book is, “When is the sequel coming out.”
Hmmm. Who could ignore that? I couldn’t, even though at first I tried.
Fast forward a full year after those questions began. Months of additional research and reflection began last summer, my editor offered helpful insights, and kind folks shared intriguing anecdotes from those who lived in Norway during the occupation.
But factor in my resistance. The writing challenges overwhelmed me.
Challenge: Telling four years of history in the voice of a girl who begins at twelve years old and is sixteen-plus by the time the war ends.
Challenge: Exploring increasingly intense and threatening situations in ways that are accessible, appropriate, and engaging for younger readers but ring true for adults who know and care about those war years.
Greatest challenge: Finding a story. I had no underlying story that would allow Mari to live through those times with purpose.
Challenges like these are why it is so difficult to answer readers’ other frequently asked question: “How long did it take you to write it?”
The good news, as they say, is that I welcome challenges. I tried multiple “writing devices” to span the time period, shift Mari’s voice as she aged, and generate storylines that revealed her growth along the path of history. Encouragement and concerns from critique partners, as always, motivated me to revise. A later, better version went to my editor, whose encouragement and concerns launched yet another round of revisions.
All those months of writing and revising aren’t “bad news”, since that’s the very process that leads to ultimate good news, like having a publication date to announce. (And I don’t.) It also means that my recently completed manuscript is a HUGE improvement over earlier efforts, if I do say so myself. And I am a better writer than I was a year ago.
So, do I think it is ready to publish now? No, but it is much closer. And the challenges that arise to get it into the hands of readers are now ones I welcome. However long it takes, Mari has shared this journey with me and together we’ll see it through to the end.