A Literary Work in Progress

Lynn Dean joins us today with an encouraging story for authors about her work in progress. She’ll draw from names of readers who “Like” and follow her Facebook page and leave a comment for an ebook copy of More Precious Than Gold, the first novel in her Sangre de Cristo series set during gold rush days in New Mexico Territory.

This mountain range has intrigued me for years, so I really appreciated all the specific history and imagery in these novels. Now, here’s Lynn:

Life rarely turns out the way we think it will.

Since good stories model real life, writers probably shouldn’t be surprised when a work in progress takes on a life of its own. Sometimes a character we thought would play a minor role suddenly steals center stage and demands to be heard. Other times our manuscript changes in medias res because we discover new information or contrive a plot twist. But occasionally our story changes because of outside influences beyond our control.

When I began writing Lilacs many years ago, a friend surprised me with a research trip to Mackinac Island where the story is set. It was a magnanimous gesture. I’d always wanted to go, and she’d already bought the tickets, so what could I say but “thank you”?

It was 40 degrees and raining sideways the weekend we visited, but the island was perfect. We stayed at the Grand Hotel and enjoyed a carriage tour. Along the way I shared my story idea and some interesting history about the hotel, including a long-ago scandal. I wasn’t sure I would mention that event, explaining that it would be difficult to handle delicately so nothing would reflect poorly on the hotel or its current owners. For some reason, when we returned, my friend decided to “help” me by marching up to the concierge desk, telling the hotel representative that I was writing a book, and asking for details about the scandal. The stunned man made a terse reply and left…and I couldn’t blame him!

Mortified, I shelved the whole project—all 45,000 words of it.

But readers know that dark moments are never the end of the story.

Fast forward. I’m at a writers’ conference in an interview with a literary agent who says she loves “Downton Abbey” stories with romantic settings and characters from different backgrounds and socio-economic classes. “Do you have any stories like that?” she asks.

It so happens I do!

I pitched the story I thought was ruined. She loved the concept, so I began to rewrite Lilacs with a different focus. I’m pleased to say the new story is better in every way than the original would have been.

Moral? Never give up, even when you think your plans are ruined. The dark moment is simply the crisis that forces us to get creative, opening new possibilities we would never have imagined otherwise.

LYNN DEAN lives near San Antonio, Texas—a near-perfect setting for a historical fiction writer. She loves to travel and meet people. Sooner or later, most of her experiences end up in a book. Keep up with what she’s writing at https://www.facebook.com/Wordsworth-PublishingLynn-Dean-161921870546466/.

25 thoughts on “A Literary Work in Progress

  1. The introduction to “When the Lilacs Bloom” has peaked my interest in reading the book. I truly enjoy historical fiction with detailed character descriptions that make the story come to life.

    • Glad to hear it! I love researching the history and setting of each story, and what I learn often makes its way into my stories in some way or other. 🙂

  2. My husband and I visited Mackinac Island last summer. What a beautiful and interesting place for a good story! I’m glad you overcame your difficult experience and wrote your book.

    • I love telling stories from history! History can teach us so much, and if we frame the lessons within a story, people have the chance to identify with the characters and learn without feeling “preached at.” 😉

    • It is!
      I attended a problem-solving seminar one time where the speaker had us write down the first solution that came to mind…then cross that out and write 5 more possible solutions! Very often the solutions that first come to mind are less creative and interesting than the ones we might think of later. 😉

  3. Oh, yes–a beautiful island and definitely a Grand Hotel. I like the twists and turns of your writing story AND research trips. You get to see the world. I’ve been to West Virginia, Vermont, Israel (setting foot into Syria, courtesy of gun-toting guard), Pennsylvania, DC, Westchester County, and North Dakota. Just breathing the air in these places makes the difference in your writing. I wish you well, Lynn! For my take on the latter three locales look up An Unpresentable Glory and read a few pages. : )

  4. Thanks, Lynn, for going backward and picking up a story that wasn’t meant to stay hidden from readers. God’s blessimgs on your investigations and the follow-up work it takes to make a story come to life.

  5. Thanks for sharing here about “Lilacs,” and your process. I love historical fiction, so it’s great to read of another writer who writes it. Are you part of ACFW? I am the VP of the group here in DFW. Writers are such a great community!

    • I am, indeed! I’ve learned a great deal from the conventions I’ve been blessed to attend, and we have a thriving group here in San Antonio, as well. 🙂

  6. Thanks for sharing the interesting background of your story. My favourite genre is historical fiction and, after your description, “Lilacs” is one I will have to read ! I will add it to my ‘Wish List’. Stay safe and well in the current pandemic.

    • Thank you! It’s definitely been interesting doing research on the Spanish Influenza pandemic during the COVID outbreak.
      I pray you and yours will stay safe, as well.

  7. Lynn, Keep writing! Let your stories unfold in a natural way. Let the characters come alive in your vivid thinking times. Thank you for the hard work you put in!!
    Karen Milligan

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