Julie here, and let’s face it— “brainstorming” means different things to different people. To Ruthy, Mary, Audra and Pam, it’s sitting in a room at the Hyatt during the ACFW Conference, fleshing out each other’s plots. To me, it’s praying out on my lower deck, crying and pleading with God to give me an impossible plot twist like He did with A Heart Revealed. To my artist husband, it’s flipping through an Architectural Digest magazine to get his creative juices flowing. And to my dear friend Patti Lacy? It’s all in a Day’s Thought, and trust me—this woman is so cerebral and creative, tapping in to her brain leaves me gaping like Alice in Wonderland, in a constant state of shock and awe.
I had the privilege of endorsing Patti’s new book, Reclaiming Lily,which releases October 1st through Bethany House, and I was so moved by this incredible story and the evolution of it, I asked her to write a guest blog. So the article below will show you how a seed of an idea took root in a very fertile brain and blossomed into one of the most beautiful pieces of fiction I have ever read. Please welcome one of my dearest friends and favorite people, author Patti Lacy.
Hey, Seekers! What a blessing to cozy into y’all’s couch!Today I’m sharing a secret. What else would you expect from the Spanning Seas & Secrets writer?
While my Seeker friends could disconnect half of their creative synapses and roll out novel after novel, I’m scratching my head and doodling all over that sheet of paper headed The Next Great American Novel.
Oh, I’ve got random thoughts all right: Did they really kill sparrows during the Chinese Revolution; Romans 8:28; it’s sunny, praise God; at age eleven, my mother’s cancer doctor nursed her parents back to health; speaking of health, Lord, heal my friend with cancer; tomorrow’s teaching day; why is my stomach bloated; remember when we walked Boston’s Freedom Trail; that new lady at church self-mutilates…and so do lots of teens, particularly girls. Please help, God; what’s for dinner, Texas ranks #1 for frequency of tornadoes, little Lucy’s adjusted to the U.S., praise Him; where’s all my pens, the dog needs to be fed, our pastor’s wife had a miscarriage—
Hey, brain cells!
How can ANYONE write with this going on?
On second “thought,” at least I’m noggin’ nogging, though the literary value’s sinking to the level of last year’s want ads. How can I tame my Twitters au natural and create a cohesive, have-’em-turning-that-next page book? The answer may be closer than you think.
When your imagination has packed its bags and gone to … Seekerville, grab a sheet of paper and corral those random thoughts! Yep, go ahead and label it The Next Great American Novel. They teach you to think big here at The Ville. Scribble out some headings, and let’s g---rrrr---ooooo----www!!!! Here's a stream-of-consciousness peek at what I did with Reclaiming Lily, pulling from my thoughts, my experiences, my own history to craft a story that was part fiction, part truth and all mined from those crazy thoughts that just might lead you to a story ...
CHARACTERS ... CONFLICT ... SETTING!!
Brave Chinese doctor … Chang Kai? (I interviewed Dr. Chang, whose story broke my heart yet inspired me to think sacrificially. How I want to share it with YOU!
Wife of a pastor…Gloria? (I admire my pastor wife friends who must constantly guard their hearts…and their husbands…against all that’s said and done in the name of religion. Surely they’ll share…won’t they?)
A troubled teenaged girl…Lily/Joy? (Oh, dear God, what can we do to help self-mutilators? What research/treatment is available?I make phone calls. Read. Already I’m seeing a determined, almond-eyed beauty, a grieving wife, an alienated young girl … How can I lasso them and then pull the string taut with conflict????
Hmmm. Could the troubled teenager (Lily/Joy?) be a lost girl of China and the daughter of Kai?
Could childless Gloria span seas and secrets to adopt “Joy”?
Could Kai want to reclaim Lily/Joy? (*needs to be INTENSE)
Which family will bear the burden of the killer disease PKD?
*Check dates on Cultural Revolution, Western adoptions from China
*Research PKD by calling MD contacts, Barnes Hospital, where friend was treated. Call friend…
China? (*this’ll take research galore. Can I swing a trip? Find the resources I’ll need?)
Boston? (*ditto, though my memories and Google and friendly Yanks might make it happen.)
Fort Worth? (*Can I use the time period when we lived here? Big plus. Another big plus: plenty of Cowtowner connections to lasso bucking bronco plot issues
I order books. Visit the library. Turn pages. Take notes. Let my fingers do the Googling.
You want the good news first, don’t you? Kai, Gloria, their love interests, and Joy can entangle like fine Oriental silk thread when I knot them with a mother’s protectiveness, a sister’s longing, and a desperate killer, PKD. The end result? I love…Reclaiming Lily! My agent’s saying, “Maybe.”
Oh. You wanted that bad news. Yeah, so did my crit partners.
Kai CANNOT be Lily’s mother and make the dates fit for both the Cultural Revolution and Western adoption.Would my readers flex their credibility muscles enough so that Joy could be Kai’s sister?
Agent says rework synopsis and let’s think about it.
Crit partners say….
Eventually, agent says…YES!
Stan Williams’ The Moral Premise flies off the shelf.
No, I didn’t tape cards on my study door like Stan does, but I did brainstorm on wants and needs and moments of grace and, of course…
THE MORAL PREMISE!
Energized fingers tap, tap, tap Chapter 1 into a Reclaiming Lily file.
After a signed contract, trip to China, first draft, and two revisions, here’s our hook:
When a deadly disease strikes the Wang family, Harvard graduate Dr. Kai
Chang alerts Lily, the sister Kai left on orphanage steps. Standing in her way is Gloria Powell, a Fort Worth pastor's wife who distrusts Kai. Surely their troubled teenager, who’s skipping school and youth group and layering on attitude as thick as her makeup, can’t handle more drama in her life. Andrew, Gloria’s husband, disagrees…and brings Kai to Cowtown.
A Texas-sized tornado whirls about the meeting place of Kai and Gloria. Tempers and cultures collide. Can Kai, Gloria, and Joy reconcile their differences, surrender their dreams, and allow God to implement a joyful, miraculous plan that will save them all?
So ... how 'bout you? Do you weave snippets from your own life into the rich tapestry of your writing? If so, tell me how you did it. If not, just leave a comment and we will include you in the drawing for a signed copy of Reclaiming Lily. And if you haven’t tried this technique, are you willing to scratch that noggin’, then get started?
Thanks, Seekers, for the visit! Y’all made the 2011 ACFW conference ROCK!!!!!!
At the age of fifty, Patti traded in her grade books for a writer’s pen after the Still, Small Voice encouraged her to novelize the story of her best friend. Patti’s first three novels, An Irishwoman’s Tale, What the Bayou Saw, and The Rhythm of Secrets, explore the secrets women keep and why they keep them. Patti’s fourth book, Reclaiming Lily, a Bethany House title, transports readers to the steps of a Chinese orphanage, where two cultures and two women collide. Patti soothes her itch to teach by leading seminars, facilitating writing classes, and speaking at women’s events. Patti and her husband, Alan, a college administrator, live in Normal. They have two grown children and a dog named Laura. You can contact Patti through her website at Patti Lacy Website.