You can only have one first and Lucinda at the Window was mine. It was the first novel I wrote, and on the 20th of September, it will be the first to reach publication. All this week, I plan to present a process log detailing the writing of Lucinda at the Window, its path to publication, and how my first has influenced me as a writer.
I remember the first conversation about Lucinda occurring in the truck.* It might not be the real memory of the event, but an amalgamation of many conversations held in Eric’s Nissan. The potentially false memory has him picking me up from work the day after I gave him those first three pages to read. The pages that would eventually become Chapter One.
"So, what are your thoughts on what happened to Lucinda?" he asked.
"I don’t know," I said. "I wasn’t planning to do anything with it."
"You have to have some ideas," he insisted.
I probably did, but they weren’t anything I was willing to share. I don’t really remember. In fact, one of the stranger things I’ve discovered about collaborating is that, for me, ideas get munged together. A manuscript is eventually revised, but so are my memories of who came up with what, or what was the original thought behind a plot point or character.
"I don’t have any plans for it," I equally insisted. I was also slightly annoyed that he hadn’t said anything about the writing itself. Hadn’t I done a good job with the atmosphere?
"You could do this with it…" And Eric gave a suggestion on who was standing on the lawn, what he’d done to Lucinda, and where the story might go from there.
Writing that novel was a fairly overwhelming thought. I stuck to my guns. "I wasn’t planning on–"
"Or this…! That would be cool. Or how about…?"
Eric had three or four ideas. I was being purposefully dense, and it took me a while to see that he was excited about ideas based on something *I* had written. I am pretty stubborn, so it took some persuading on his part to convince me that I could do "something" with the atmosphere piece I had written. Much of my attitude was based in fear. I was being given a cool idea, but I didn’t think I could do it justice. Despite learning that a writer should give herself permission to suck on the first draft (especially), I wasn’t yet willing to put the theory into practice. In the end, I agreed to work on it because, well, what else did I have going on?
In the scheme of Eric and I as collaborators, Lucinda is much more my book than his. He’d spin a "what if" and I’d run with it until I’d hit a wall. He’d read every few days, point me in the direction of the end of the book, and give me a push. Occasionally, I would add some new character or object that had relevance, but I wouldn’t know why it was relevant. It was then too that Eric would supply more plot detail.
A prime example of this (and of my forgetting where details come from) is the tinder box. David, my main protagonist, finds a tinder box in one scene:
"What’s in the box?" Eric asked.
"Well, I don’t know. It’s just there."
With a sigh, he’d figure out what was in the box and why it was now an important part of the plot.
I don’t remember this, but I don’t doubt that it happened either.
Eric is thinking about posting his own thoughts on how Lucinda at the Window came to be. I’ll definitely link to that if he doesn’t respond here.
[Tomorrow: How I Wrote a Big, Damn Novel.]
*Yes, the same truck that Eric still drives.