Today’s post is the last installment of my series on the writing process of taking Cassandra’s Daughter from idea to print, a process that took years in the making!
If you haven’t read the series from the beginning, you can start HERE. In the previous post, I got my draft pretty darn close to being finalized. The main step that was left at this point was preparing the manuscript.
This was the stage where my experience with Clara’s Journal proved the most valuable. I should probably also point out that what a lot of people may not realize is just how much the traditional publishing world has changed. I had pretty much decided that I would go the self-publishing route. The cons for going with a traditional publisher simply had too many cons on the ledger.
What follows is Part 5 of my discussion of the writing process I went through to get Cassandra’s Daughter to print. In this installment, I am coming close to feeling like I might actually have a final draft. And I should point out that when I say a final draft, by no means did that mean I thought it was nearly finished. I had just gotten it close to a point where I might be willing to let someone (other than my children) read it.
At this stage, the story was not quite told in chronological order. I was still trying to mix things up – for dramatic effect. Each chapter was devoted to the third-person perspective of a single character, and I had chapters devoted to many more characters than just Cora, Leah, and Cassandra. There were chapters for Bessie, Kevin, Dr. Pendergast, etc.
But I wanted Cassandra’s story to be told differently. I wanted Cassandra to be rendered voiceless and unable to create as a result of the generational secrets kept from her. But as she discovered the truth, she would be able to gain her voice, to create, to tell her own story. This would mean that I wanted her to tell her own story in first person by the end of the book. But how to make that transition?
Some people have been asking about how I ended up writing Cassandra’s Daughter, and so I started this set of posts. If you are just finding this, you can go back to Part One to start from the beginning. In the previous installment, I discussed some of the “big picture” decisions I was making during the early drafts of the book while living in the Outer Banks.
At this point, I was mostly spending my time imagining, finding connections, solving puzzles, doing research, and telling stories.
As I would read through each latest draft, I would constantly find myself asking questions:
I ended the previous installment of this journey of how the idea of a novel turned into the physical manifestation of the novel in my (and in many other people’s!) bookcase with the decision to move to the Outer Banks where I could begin to do the actual writing. (You can go back to the beginning of the story and start with Part One if you haven’t read that yet.)
As I mentioned in the Part Two, I spent two weeks in Africa at a writers’ workshop. While there, I focused my time on developing the premise of the book as well as pinpointing the emotions that I wanted to elicit from readers both throughout the book and then at the end.
I was curious about what I had come up with while in Africa, so I pulled out all of my notes from that trip to see what I might have jotted down.
In my previous post, I explained a bit about my writing process for a screenplay that I wrote before I started working on Cassandra’s Daughter. And the process involved a tight outline and index cards taped to my bedroom wall. That was definitely not the process with this book.
The spark for this book came not with a desire to write a book. It began as a self-imposed writing exercise. My mother passed away in 2013, so this exercise must have taken place quite a few years prior to that, probably in the early 2000s. At that time, I challenged myself to regularly write, whether I had a project I was working on or not. So I would go to the dentist for a root canal and then try to describe my experience using all my senses: the aesthetics of the office, the TV loudly playing as a failing means of distraction, the pushing and pulling on my teeth, the taste of chemicals, the horrific sounds of the drill and the saliva sucking tube, and finally, the smell (of burning flesh? Tooth? What IS that smell??). Or other times I would people-watch and single out someone to ascribe a personality to. And then I would do a character sketch of that person. One of those writing exercises ignited the spark for what became Cassandra’s Daughter.
Now that my novel Cassandra’s Daughter is available on Amazon, I thought it might be interesting to document the process of bringing this kernel of an idea to fruition.
And that is exactly how it started – as a very small kernel. Previously, I had spent my writing career focusing on nonfiction essays and narratives. For some reason, I had made the decision in high school, if not earlier, that I was not creative and was incapable of doing any type of creative writing. I have no idea why I came to that decision. But that decision led to ridiculous poems about rocks in English class. Clearly, rather than change my belief that I was incapable of writing a poem by putting some actual effort into the writing, I instead purposely produced doggerel in record time.
And here we are – the conclusion of a speech I gave in 2007. I have spent the past ten installments expanding on my thoughts and experiences from fifteen years ago. I enjoyed the process because I could directly see how so many of the problems we are seeing in education today were obvious much longer ago. And seeing where we are today, I would have to say that my concerns were warranted!
This will be the last installment, and I look forward to hearing others’ thoughts on this topic and on what they are seeing in their children’s and grandchildren’s schools. Thank you for joining me on this journey!
This is the fifth installment of a series of essays on group identity on college campuses that comes from a speech I gave back in 2007. You can find the first, second, third, and fourth here. I will continue discussing what happens with a fixation on group identity, problems I saw playing out 15 years ago. And these problems have only increased since then.
This installment continues with the discussion of the detrimental impact group identity has on the relationship between faculty members and students. The speech is rewritten in the indented sections, and I interrupt periodically with my current comments about what I wrote so long ago.
What is more important? The effort or the results?
I guess it depends.
I teach at a university on the side of my writing. And I teach writing – no surprise I am sure.
But I had an interesting exchange with a student yesterday. She was upset that she received a C on the report that I had just returned in my business writing class. I have turned this class into much more than simply business writing, however. I have emphasized professionalism and leadership as well.
I am not posting on here as much as I would like to, but I have a good reason for that. I am in a writing frenzy as far as my screenplay goes. Every time I think I should write a post (and I have a dozen or so topics and partial posts in my queue!), I can’t tear myself away from my screenplay. But I am pretty sure that’s a good thing!
The last couple of days have been full of thinking about how to fill a couple of holes in my script. I cannot even begin to explain the satisfaction of finding solutions to those holes. In fact, I am feeling really emotional right now because I just solved a problem with the mentor character. And I felt compelled to share my feelings here.
I don’t know how many people can understand the satisfaction I feel. No, that is not the right word. The triumph. That is more accurate. It literally brings me to tears. It is that beautiful.
So I sit here at Starbucks doing my best to hold it all in, amazed at the characters I am creating, and falling in love with them over and over again. Who knew this was possible?
The is my first shot at fiction (and I chose a screenplay to experiment on!). I never considered myself creative enough to write fiction. And just to prove the saying “Whether you say you can, or whether you say you can’t, you are right,” I have never been able to create a decent story in my few feeble attempts.
But this project is different. I know I can do this. And so I am. And I am amazed at what I am capable of.
I am in love with my story, and I am in love with my characters. I can’t wait to share them! Thanks for indulging me. Now, back to work.