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Treading Water – A Year of Writing in Place

By Mari Christie
April 6, 2021

The past year of the pandemic has been like treading water. Staying “in place” has applied in many areas of my life, writing included. My job is much unchanged, as I worked from home most of the time before the pandemic. I am an extreme introvert, so my contact with the outside world has stayed the same (though it has become much easier to abstain from outings). And yet, they say the old shall become new again, and perhaps that is true.

In the absence of ideas for a new book, I went back to an old one. My first completed (unpublished) book—in which I made every mistake a writer can, many more than once—was about five times longer than any novel has a right to be. But still, I love the characters, the plot, the story. No matter that it has lain dormant for more than ten years, I never really put it down.

The story, set at the turn of the last century, revolves around three children who grow up on the same Brooklyn street: Jimmy, a teenaged thug with pretensions to higher criminal status, Flory, an innocent six-year-old girl who can’t know what tribulations life can bring, and Frankie, a ten-year-old math prodigy, whose head for business is exceeded only be his drive to do the right thing.

Upon re-reading, I discovered a natural means of breaking the behemoth into more manageable pieces: a nine-book series. Three trilogies, each focused of the different stages of these children’s (and their families’) lives. My year of writing in place has been spent going back to where I began, writing the first (second?) draft of The Cub, Book One in The Lion’s Club series, now with the developmental editor. While she has been reviewing, I have begun work on Book Two, The Hunter.

Although I thought I knew everything about these characters (after 400,000 words, what more could there be?), by necessity, I learned more. With the manuscript now subdivided nine times, each book is too short to stand alone, so must be expanded, even as I edit out all the terrible mistakes. I have met more of their family members, their love interests, their nemeses, and themselves. I have seen the settings more clearly and heard more of the characters’ stories from their own lips.

I say frequently that I must listen to the characters tell me the story, because they have already lived it and know the players much better than I. This has proven even more true of a story I thought I knew. I have discovered more and more about everything I originally wrote, delving into the rewriting. How a villain can become the hero in his own story, and how a hero can turn villainous, given the right provocation. How a child can be led astray by nothing but a bit of kindness, and how cruelty can forge a lifetime. How leaving a person with almost nothing can lead to them give up all they have left.

And, in learning all this about my characters and story, I learned, too, about myself. That returning to the start is not the misfortune it might seem. That even mistakes can add enormous value. That writing—much like life while treading water—is mostly the act of rewriting again and again.   

Mari Christie
Written by Mari Christie

Mari Anne Christie writes second chances for scarred souls. Her book, Blind Tribute, is a multi-award winner in American historical fiction, and she writes historical romance as Mariana Gabrielle. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her two cats.

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