Sunday, March 24, 2013

Just Try to Top This!

Last week, I finally—I can hardly even believe I’m saying this—FINALLY finished a complete draft of a manuscript called Jordan’s Shadow. I have been trying, off and on, to write a complete draft of it for, let’s see…approximately 30 years. Yes, that’s right. Thirty years. I just dare any of you to top that record for persistence. Or procrastination. Or insanity. One way or the other, that’s got to be some kind of record.

The idea for Jordan’s Shadow actually came to me more than 30 years ago. I was casually thinking about time travel. (This reminds me of a Stephen King quote I once heard. He was talking about being in a grocery store and thinking what it would be like if pterodactyls were flying around in the store, because, according to him, that’s the kind of thing he thinks about.) Anyway, I was thinking about going back in time and meeting my parents when they were teenagers like me. As I was mulling this over, another thought occurred to me. Suppose I were able to time travel and become friends with my mother, but she didn’t know who I was—she  thought I was just another girl from her neighborhood. So then what would she think when she had a daughter who started to grow up and turn into a carbon copy of the girl who was her friend in her youth?

This may not do much for you, but it gave me chills. I went even further with the idea. What if the mother-daughter hadn’t been friends, but enemies? What if the poor time-traveling daughter never made it back to her right time, because she died in the past—and maybe Mom was even implicated in the accident that caused it? And now, Mom sees her darkest secret from the past revealed in the face of her adolescent daughter!

Not long after I started playing around with the idea, I heard that a movie called Back to the Future was planned, and I got discouraged and thought about scrapping JS. The ideas sounded too similar. But after seeing the movie, I knew there was no problem. First, for some reason, Marty McFly’s parents were too dense to recognize Marty as the boy they knew twenty or thirty years earlier. Second, Jordan’s Shadow is definitely not a comedy. Maybe I could bill it as Back to the Future done as a creepy gothic.

I realize I’m writing Jordan’s Shadow spoilers in this post and hope I don’t ruin anything for you assuming it ever gets published. But hey, who really reads my blog, anyway?

None of the above explains why it took me so long to write a complete draft. I think, partly, because the way I started this story was so different from the way I usually write. It started with a premise, but aside from the fact there would be a mother and a daughter, I didn’t know who the characters in the story would be. And I really had no plot aside from the premise.

The plot has evolved over the years and has become as convoluted as one of the latter seasons of Lost. Actually, I’m hoping Lost has trained a generation of readers to be able to comprehend Jordan’s Shadow.

I'm not sure why I kept going back to this manuscript. Maybe I've worked on overcoming my tendency to start things I don't finish to the point I'm now obsessive about letting projects go. But I've also always felt there was something to this story, something unique and worthwhile, even though writing it has been about as much fun as a 30-year root canal. And of course, I still have major rewriting ahead of me, but now that the plot is laid down from start to finish, that seems like a breeze by comparison. 

Maybe that will only take five or ten years!