My daughter recently played Marmee in Little Women in her high school musical. I am sure you all know the story, Jo is the writer, Meg the romantic, Amy wants the better things in life and Beth is simply content and dies far too young. All of the characters are wonderful in this well-known story, but being an author myself, I always understood where Jo was coming from. I even felt her pain when Amy burned her manuscript. There were no backups or flash drives, let alone computers, during the Civil War and once the copy is gone, it is gone forever. Even though it was a fictional story, my stomach still clenched each time I witnessed the younger sister toss the papers into the imaginary flames. Perhaps it brings back bad memories of when my hard-drive failed. I swore I had each chapter and sections copied to a floppy disc (did I just date how long I’ve been writing?). After I restored my hard drive, I went to load the book back onto the computer. Five chapters, from the middle of the book, were gone. I still remember they were chapters 19 – 24. I was sick, sick, sick. I remembered what happened in these chapters, but the words I had written were gone forever.
At one point in the story, Aunt March mentions to Jo that she considered taking her to Europe. Jo believes this is something she needs to do and will do anything, even if it means becoming a poised lady, to go to Europe. Her theory is that a writer needs to travel to become better. Rarely do we get to travel to the places we write about, unless you write contemporary stories that take place in your home town. My novels are historical with settings mainly in England. Pure is the Heart touches on Paris because it occurs during the French Revolution. However, my heroine, Elise, has escaped France in order to keep her head attached to her neck. A lot of the inspiration for this novel, and the places I mention, came from my first visit to France four years ago. Though we are over a century removed from the French Revolution, many of the most amazing places can still be visited and that is exactly what I did a few weeks ago.
Over spring break I had the opportunity to once again go to France. This time, I knew the story I wanted to write. It was planned to be a sequel to Pure is the Heart and take place during one of the most turbulent times in history. I had the advantage of knowing what I needed to find out and which pictures I needed to take and what books I may need to purchase. I could hardly wait to start this adventure and once again absorb the history of Paris, Versailles, Chartres, the cathedrals and the many chateaus in the region. Of course, that all changed when my inspiration took another direction. Instead of the sequel I planned, other stories formed. It just goes to show that the story in my head doesn’t always turn out the same way on paper, and sometimes our writing takes an entirely new direction due to our life experiences.
With Jo, she wrote “blood and guts” stories. After Beth died, she could not write a thing. Her inspiration and desire died along with her sister. Not until listening to the wise words of her mother, and her own inner reflection, did she pick up her quill and paper once again. This time, however, she wrote a story of four young women, Meg the romantic, Amy with the pout, and sweet, sweet Beth. .
What about you? Have you ever lost part of all of a manuscript for good? Do you desire to travel anywhere to research your stories and absorb the locations and history? Or, have you already had the opportunity to travel to some interesting place to enhance your story? And, have you ever started writing one thing and later switch genre’s because of alterations in your life?