Turning Back the Clock by Cara Lynn James
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 time frame 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.
Cara Lynn James' latest release from Thomas Nelson will be available in January 2011. You can preorder Love on Assignment (Ladies of Summerhill) here.
And you can find Cara at www.caralynnjames.com
Here's a sneak peak from Love On Assignment!
The chance to break the big story is just what Charlotte needs to secure her future. But when the truth comes out--it may also cost her the love of her life.
Newport, Rhode Island, in 1900; A glamorous resort town where the rich and famous go to see and be seen.
Charlotte Hale isn’t part of that world. She’s a working girl, a secretary for a local newspaper who dreams of becoming a real reporter. When her boss offers her an assignment, she jumps at the opportunity. She’ll go undercover as a governess to investigate a scandal about her new employer, Daniel Wilmont, a young widowed professor of religion who writes a controversial column in a rival newspaper.
Charlotte’s qualms about misrepresenting herself to Daniel soon morphs into a deeper quandary. How can she get the goods on a man who turns out to be not only honorable, but admirable? How can she plot the downfall of a family that has inspired her to rediscover her faith? And how can she protect the man she now loves from a scheme she’s been part of from the beginning?
This post first appeared in Seekerville September 25, 2008.
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