Please give her a warm welcome!
Let it simmer
Let it simmer
by Laurel Garver, author of NEVER GONE
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you aren’t participating in NaNoWriMo. The program simply isn’t for everyone — it might not fit your life circumstances, your process, or your most promising ideas.
As a matter of fact, some of the most powerful ideas you’ll have as a writer may first come to you long before you’re ready to write them. That was certainly the case with my debut novel NEVER GONE.
I “met” my character Dani twenty years ago, while out on a walk in the countryside around Devon, Pennsylvania, a bedroom community of Philadelphia. Strangely enough, she felt like a real person who fell in step with me as I walked. She told me about the difficult relationship she had with her mother since her dad had died, how it was tough to hang onto her faith when her church-going parent had been snatched and she was stuck with the atheist. She told me about her dad’s Britishisms that she missed, and how her mother seemed emotionally frozen.
At only 23, I wasn’t entirely sure where to even begin writing this hurting girl. I searched magazines for models of the characters, then did pencil drawings to adapt to what I saw in my mind’s eye. I wrote pages of notes and a few disjointed scenes. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this story was bigger than my ability to write it. I stuffed the project in a drawer and returned to short stories and poetry.
Dani languished in a drawer until 2005, a few years after I lost my own father. I was growing restless as a stay-at-home mother, and a friend urged me to pick up writing again. I did a little digging through my idea file and came across my character sketches. Something inside me lit up.
I knew how it felt to lose a parent. I’d spend a week watching my dad die by inches in an ICU and hospice but held those painful experiences locked deep inside me. It was time to work through those emotions and here was my vehicle.
Best of all, there was enough difference between Dani’s loss and mine to help me have emotional truth, yet creative distance. I wouldn’t have the pressure to contort her story to match mine, but could let it unfold naturally. Unlike fifteen-year-old Dani, I was a married adult with a toddler when I lost my dad. He had suffered from poor health for years and was elderly, rather than in the prime of life and killed in an accident like Dani’s dad. But my loss gave me new insight about what it might be like to lose someone young. The emotions are run through the filter of higher stakes.
As much as I sometimes blush about NEVER GONE’s long road to publication, I don’t regret the decade and a half it sat in a drawer. I encourage all young writers to keep a big file of ideas and have faith that your best ideas will come to fruition when you are ready to write them.
Laurel Garver is a magazine editor, professor’s wife and mom to an energetic fourth grader. An indie film enthusiast and incurable Anglophile, she enjoys geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who, playing word games, singing, and mentoring teens at her church.
About the book:
Days after her father’s death, fifteen-year-old Dani Deane begins seeing him all around New York — wading through discarded sketches in her room, roaming the halls at church, socializing at his post-funeral reception. Is grief making her crazy? Or could her dad really be lingering between this world and the next, trying to contact her?
Dani desperately longs for his help. Without him keeping the peace, Dani’s relationship with her mother is deteriorating fast. Soon Mum ships her off to rural England with Dad’s relatives for a visit that Dani fears will become a permanent stay. But she won’t let her arty, urban life slip away without a fight, especially when daily phone calls with her lab partner Theo become her lifeline.
To find her way home, Dani must somehow reconnect with Mum. But as she seeks advice from relatives and insights from old letters, she uncovers family secrets that shake her to the core. Convinced that Dad’s ghost alone can help her, she sets out on a dangerous journey to contact him one last time.
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This is great advice, Laurel. With age comes wisdom, experience, and wrinkles. At least two out of three ain't bad. :)
Hi Laurel! Yay for hanging on to and keeping faith with Dani!! Now her story is here and gloriously so! All the best! Take care
I have heard so much about your book, Laurel. Sounds amazing!!
Oops, I meant to congratulate you, too!! Congratulations! I have a Nook.
Stina: I remember being discouraged back then that I'd never write anything when I couldn't make the story work. It just needed a lot of time to come to fruition. Experience, wisdom and battle scars! :-D
Old Kitty: Thanks! When our ideas are truly ready, there's no stopping them, I think.
Sheri: Thanks so much for your kind words and for entering the giveaway!
Letting a story sit and simmer and grow in your heart and your head is brilliant. Every story had its own germination stage. SOme spring to life immediately - others need that time. :)
I'm a slow writer and you're making me feel better about it Laurel. Thanks so much for sharing that. Congrats on your book!
So, every story has its own time to be written. It's interesting how the author's experiences can influence one of their works.
Jemi: I've had stories come to me quickly too, but this one arrived before I was ready for it. Indeed, every story has its own germination stage.
Natalie: Being fast isn't everything. Many stories need time to become the best they can be.
GE: It was certainly the case for me that I had to lose a parent to be able to write about parent loss. To an extent, the loss gave me permission to tackle the topic. That gave me a sense of authority over the story that had been missing when I was a recent college graduate.
I've met someone like that!
I am in NaNoWriMo, I just am following Book Dreaming.
hi miss shannon and miss laurel!
cool interview and video. wow! for sure you kept dani in a drawer for a long time. you got her out just when it was the right time for her to share her story. for sure its important to keep all your ideas. your book sounds like its got a neat plot and i cant wait to see what happens with dani and her ghost dad.
...smiles from lenny
That is outstanding advice. I've used so many of my old ideas in one form or another. I never toss anything for that reason!
As for NaNo, I am participating but obviously not doing a good job of focusing. :)
Excellent advice. I sometimes start books quickly, but they always need time to ripen.
Jasmyne: met a figment of your imagination that talked to you? Hope so--it's cool when characters emerge full-formed like that!
Lenny: Thanks! Sometimes really cool ideas come way before we're ready to write them. We have to be patient with our own growth process and keep excellent notes! :-D
Heather: You never know when an older idea will gel! Glad this was encouraging for you.
Faith: Every project has its time to come to fruition. Some need more time to marinate, some don't. But not being able to write an idea quickly NOW isn't a sign that it's a bad idea necessarily. It may merely be a not-yet ripe idea.
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