Tuesday, September 29

New Projects and Rose-Colored Glasses

I've been working on something new for the past few weeks. A pivot in the middle of a pivot and it feels...good. This new project I'm working on is familiar. I've gone back to small town America, to a place I've lived and can still picture from the smell of dawn as it breaks over the plains to the bone-deep cold of a blizzard blowing in. 

And yet, despite the familiarity of this place I'm writing about and the people, everything is fresh and new. And a little bit sweet. This main street I'm writing only exists in my mind and on paper, but it's familiar like so many small town main streets I've traveled in my life. These people I'm writing aren't caricatures of people I've known or just wished I've known, but they are still familiar. I can see the older man outside the feed store waiting with his checkerboard for someone to sit with him for a bit. I can smell the steaks being grilled at the diner, and the muskiness of that stray dog that everyone has adopted but who still doesn't belong to any one person. 

I'm a little bit in love with my small town, like I've been in love with the actual small towns where I've lived in my life. As much as I enjoy the conveniences of cities, there is something about an actual small town that calls to me. Reminding me to slow down a little. To take that walk in the morning or sit on the back deck and enjoy the sunset or sit in my office and watch the rain trickle down the windows on a cool fall day. 

But give it another month or once I get to rewrites and I won't feel the same. At least, not completely. I'll still like that old man waiting to play checkers but I'll also probably be annoyed that he's still just waiting. And that dog? He'll have gotten under my metaphorical feet by changing his markings at least twice, and sending me on too many find-and-replace searches to count. And my hero and heroine? They'll be on my last nerve because why can't they just see the other side of things already?!?

I know what they say. Hindsight is 20/20. We look at the past through rose-colored glasses. These things are both true. But I think, for writers especially, we write our first drafts while wearing rose-colored glasses we can't bear to take off. Everything is shiny and new and perfect and exciting. No one has described a sunset in quite the same way as the heroine. No one has been quite as heartbroken as the hero. There has never been a more inquisitive - or lovable - stray dog, never been a more lonely and yet wise old man at the feed store. Everyone always has time to sit and talk about nothing and just get to know one another. It isn't until the second draft and that third round of revisions that we realize that conversation about nothing really is about nothing and deleeeeeeeeeeete. There went 2,000 words that were absolutely necessary in the beginning. And then we see that that stray dog really would have been picked up by the dog warden at least twice so deleeeeeeeete. Or find an owner. Maybe the hero needs a dog. And that older gentleman? If all he does is sit and wait, is that wise or is it just lonely and is that going to ring true for the reader or am I making things a little too real?

The point is, I think we have to write the draft with those glasses on. Let the story come as it will, take the shape that it will. We can tidy up those markings on the dog later. And if that old man at the store is too sad, well, we can change that, too. But loving our stories feeds our excitement. It puts more words on the page, it keeps up pushing forward to see what happens next and how they get out of this argument or that tight spot.

I'll figure out all those questions. For now, with my rose-colored glasses still on, that dog and that old man are in exactly the right place. And so is this new-yet-familiar new project...which I hope will be coming to a store shelf near you in the near future. 


  1. Oh, I love this! I hope your glasses stay on and perfectly straight. And that the dog stays well-fed and the old man finds someone to join him at the checkerboard.

  2. Excellent post, Kristi, and I totally know where you're coming from about the rose-colored glasses. I've never lived in a small town, so my stories are more fantasy than reality, but I do have Liz, who will sometimes pull me up short with "that wouldn't happen just because it's a small town." I'm so grateful that she shares her real-life small town experience, she brings the real when I need it. ;-)

    1. I agree, Nan, it's always good to have someone reel you in when you're off on a writing tangent.

  3. I so know what you mean. That stuff that seemed so vital in the first draft often hits the cutting room floor in editing. But it's so vital to write that first draft with emotion and heart. Best of luck with your pivot Kristi. Seems we're doing a lot of that this year.

  4. Oh, Kristi, I just love this posting! How it resonates with me. Thank you for letting me know that I'm not alone in my disgruntled frustration that I often find myself in while in the midst of a work in progress. It's never easy, is it? But, in the end, when we can look with pleasure and deep satisfaction at the result of all of the blood, sweat and tears we shed, we come to realize that maybe those rose-colored glasses gave us the inspiration we needed to get through the colorless days that do come, but eventually go.