New Story: When?
In 2016, at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference, a dear, trusted writer friend of mine (KIM WOODHOUSE!) Sat me down at the table in her little cabin in the woods after a scrumptious dinner. She took a deep breath and blurted out the words, “Tracie [Peterson] and I have been talking about you. You’re thinking too small in regards to your career. You’re trapping yourself in a genre in which we don’t believe you’re going to see much success.” I’ll spare you all the details because they don’t matter, but pretty much, two best-selling authors who love me deeply, gave me brutally honest feedback about my writing path.
It hurt. They wanted me to bust out of my comfort zone.
A few weeks later, my family visited Tracie at her home, and she spoke with me personally (same message) and even helped me come up with the beginnings of a new story in a new genre.
How did I choose the new story? The new genre? Well, I thought about what I read the most. Suspense. I LOVE suspense. Suspense is a popular genre and had room for some new authors who wrote compelling and nail-biting stories. One new author would be me.
For a year and a half, I busted every lump and hump and bump in my brain to write a synopsis and first three chapters to submit for representation.
While working on that I finished my second YA novel TOSS, and started the third and final one in the series. In the midst of all that, some events in Wyoming history caught my eye. I couldn’t help myself. Curiosity got the best of me and I started reading books about the subject. Maybe after I wrote my contemporary suspense and finished by YA series, I’d write a historical suspense.
New Story: Why?
Kim Woodhouse strikes again.
About a month ago, Kim sends me a lengthy email. “I see you’ve been doing research on historical events…”
Bottom line was this: Because I am not a bestseller, even though I am multi-published, major publishers would view/treat me as a total newbie. Newbie writers must pick a genre and stick with it. Newbie authors going a traditional route cannot start in one genre and jump to another. It’s a business thing and it makes sense if you take the time to think it through.
Kim said I had to choose. Either I continue along the line of contemporary suspense, or I shift gears and start over in a whole new genre. And I had to choose fast. Opportunities knocked and I couldn’t sit on it for long.
I consulted with the other TWN writers AKA my Bloodthirsty Crit partners about what, in their professional opinions, I should do. I had put over a year and a half of work into my suspense! I also called my friend Jim Peterson (Tracie’s husband who has worked in the industry) and cried all over my iPhone. He encouraged me to pray about it.
God never asks us to take the easy road—never.
After a few days of prayer and talking to the Critters, I made the hard decision to file away my contemporary and start from scratch in the historical suspense genre.
I don’t know how to write historical.
That was something I was gonna do someday.
I knew how to write contemporary. I even knew how to write suspense. I’d been studying the craft of it all year as well.
Research? Hahahahaha! I know how to do research on contemporary things – things found via the internet, but historical? Events and folks not known outside Wyoming? Yeeeeeahhhhh.
My trusted writer friends confirmed what I felt God impressed on my heart. Do the hard thing.
New Story: How?
I told Kim and Becca I had no idea what I was doing. They told me to shut up and get busy. Kim may or may not have thrown in a death threat. Kayla was all like, “Yeah! You go girl!” So I went to the library at Casper College because inside is a place called the Western History Center. It is one of the largest archives in Wyoming. Creeping in with my notebook hugged to my chest I told the archivist I was an author doing research on Wyoming history. Her eyes lit up and she took me on a tour of the archives. She then proceeded to pull things from shelves that may help in my research.
Boxes and files and books and old newspapers towered on the table… yikes! Where do I begin?
All I wanted to do at that moment was cry. I was overwhelmed!
I opened the first file box. It was a box of stuff donated from a family affected by the event I wanted to write about. In that moment, I discovered primary sources! Hand-written letters, and typed recollections from people who lived through the horrifying time. It was like a confetti bomb blew up in my head and the confetti were ideas rather than pieces of paper.
To center myself, I decided to write out a timeline of Wyoming history. From 1742 to present. Hey, I needed context!
Then I honed in on the dates I wanted to write about.
Then I got every source I could get my hands on about the event: that meant putting local librarians to work and getting the help of the archivist at the college.
As I studied, I looked for my story. Every time I ran across a character or happening of interest, I’d make a note about it as a possible plot point.
Then one day, as I read about a newspaperman who took it upon himself to confront the “fake news” of his day, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. An electrical charge zinged up and down my spine. I shoved back in my chair, spun in a circle with arms over my head shouting, “Yes! I found it!”
I scared my cat.
My research became laser-focused. I’ve called the museum in the town of my setting. I spoke with the historian. Over the holiday I will drive up and visit the museum and library as well as the location. I need to get into this man’s head. I will be basing a fictional character on him.Not a lot is known about him, but boy, he fascinates me. He resonates with me. I see myself in him.
So now I am off on a new story in a new genre!
And loving it.
Is it time for you to switch gears? If so, tell us about it. Let us help you! We offer editing services and can give feedback to help you find your path.
With pen to paper,