For my latest writing project I decided to again revise the first manuscript I ever wrote. It was rejected, rewritten a few years later and rejected again. Does that mean it’s a worthless piece of flotsam? Not on your life--at least not to me. Well, it could possibly be a real loser, but I’m too optimistic (and egotistical) to believe that. What writer doesn’t glare at a rejected story and think it rubbish while simultaneously believing deep down in her writer’s heart it’s actually an unsung masterpiece?
The thing is—I like my story even if one editor didn’t fully appreciate its merits. (I forgive her.) Maybe I can improve it. I’ll deepen my characters and tighten my plot, eliminate ing words, adjectives and adverbs. Then I’ll send it off again and hope and pray for better results this time. I don’t want this manuscript to sit under my bed with all my other junk and collect dust.
The problem is—I really don’t want to rework this one more time. I’ve read the story over so many times I’ve almost memorized it and I can’t find any glaring problems.
Then a brainstorm flashed through my head. I can keep the basic plot and characters, but change the timeframe and setting. That will make it seem almost new—at least not quite so stale. I prefer writing historical romance to contemporary anyway, so why not send the story backwards one hundred years? How hard could it be? I love to write historical romances and this one has potential despite a rejection, so why not.
First I tackled the differences in language between now and 1900, my favorite era. Changing dialogue was easy. The great difference didn’t really come from the words my heroine spoke, but instead came from my heroine herself.
The contemporary girl was outspoken and cocky, stood up for herself and felt confident in her professional abilities. My historical girl felt grateful she had a good job usually reserved for a man and feared if she asserted herself she’d probably get fired. Both young women were products of their times and limited by the norms of their societies. So I needed to send my heroine (and hero, too) to a world in which she’d never lived and see how she’d react to her new surroundings and culture. Lots of fun! I couldn’t have a girl living 108 years ago acting like a liberated 21st century woman.
Research took care of problems with small problems such as transportation. Now that my heroine doesn’t have a car, did she hire a carriage, walk or take the trolley? Since her town actually exists, I needed to find out where the trolley ran in 1900.
This manuscript poses more of a challenge that I expected, but also much more fun. It’s like writing a story from scratch, but with the benefit of having the first draft already completed.
Have any of you changed a story from one time period to another? What difficulties did you encounter and was it worth the effort? I’m very curious.