Is there anything you really despise? You know, that thing or food you avoid like the plague? When it came to writing, many, many years ago, that was me. I hated it. Reports weren’t too bad as long as it wasn’t a book report. Death was a better option. Then there was the dreaded short story or haiku. I’d have preferred hell. How things changed, and I have no idea how or why. It just happened, very much like what happened to Kate, Deb, and Pete.
Outside These Walls was a writing journey that started in the summer of 2013, and I found it immensely rewarding. I have a very long resume of things I’ve done in my life, both professionally and personally. But I have to rank this one near the top in terms of personal satisfaction. So I invite you inside my walls for a closer look at how this novel came to be.
Over the course of my thirty-seven-year professional career, I did a fair amount of writing. But never fiction. Nope, not until nine-plus years ago anyway. I had a story idea that kept rolling around in my head, at least the beginning of a story. But I couldn’t shake it, so just for kicks, I started writing it down, and I didn’t know a lick about writing fiction, or storytelling.
So I fooled around with it for about four years, picking it up and putting it down while I tried to figure out where the story would go. What was it about? In a nutshell, how the relationship of Kate, Deb, and Pete came to be. When I finished in October 2017, it was a 156,000-word monstrosity. It was also terrible. How do I know? Well, I was politely told so. I also tried reading it recently and didn’t get very far; it was that bad. So after rejection and discovering writing fiction wasn’t nearly as bad as I remembered it to be, I sought the help of a developmental editor.
That didn’t prove out to be especially helpful, so I’ll spare you the gory details. However, I did manage to take away a tidbit or two. The biggest was saying more with less. I managed to take my original manuscript, changed its POV, the story some, and whacked and hacked that baby down to 97,000 words. That effort resulted in Eden’s Exiled and concluded in late December 2018. I recently read seventy-five percent of that one as well, trying to decide if I could salvage any of it for a sequel to Outside These Walls. I decided I couldn’t, but in the process, I discovered that I had made some significant improvement over my first attempt.
Not being particularly anxious for a repeat with another editor, I spent the first half of 2019 reading up on the craft: storytelling, POV, showing not telling, dialogue, etc., and concluded I could do better. After tossing around the pros and cons of going an entirely different direction, my decision was to write a new story—sort of. And it’s the ‘sort of’ part that is what this post is really about.
Outside These Walls is a far more complex story than either of the other two. Yet still, I plagiarized my own work in a few areas. Below is an accounting of what I stole from the first two.
- Starting with the obvious, the characters of Deb, Kate, and Pete. But poor Deb, her part was diminished significantly from the previous two, and I hated doing it to her. She was such a fun character to write. But I felt that having her pop in with her commentary when the scenes were solely about the teens would be inappropriate. She was connected to Kate and Pete, after all. Likewise, until she made her way back into the consciousness of her soulmates, I didn’t feel it was right for her to narrate before she did.
- Chapter one was pulled straight from chapter one of Eden’s Exiled. It isn’t word-for-word the same, but it’s the same enough to be easily recognized. I used it because I thought it essential to introduce Deb right from the beginning. Like she says in the prologue, without her, there is no story. I also wanted to hint at the adults’ plight and visibly show their pain after twenty-five years.
- All of the adults’ recounted stories were taken from the previous manuscripts. So in fact, those stories really did happen in their past. Of course, I edited them to fit a storytelling version.
- Jason’s story about Ashley was originally Pete’s story, and I used it similarly for him to make his point.
- Chapter twenty-eight, Confessions, when Pete tells Kate about his affair with Deb and the bond he still feels, that whole chapter is pretty much a clone.
- Chapter thirty, Vat of Love, all of the recounting from their past was pulled from Eden’s Exiled.
- In the last scene of chapter nine, while walking home, Lis makes her juvenile remark, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” This was originally said by Deb when she and Kate walked home after their initial skinny-dip adventure.
After taking most of 2021 off from writing, I resumed at the beginning of 2022 and finished in May. I felt I was finally on to something and sought input from some alpha readers. Most of it was favorable, but in all honesty, one person found little redeeming value in it. Fortunately, her opinion was offset by an intern for a literary agency. She wondered why I wasn’t looking for an agent. I’d yet to give it a thorough scrub, so I took their collective input and went to work. I finished in September, then went two rounds of beta readers. More editing and more changes. Except for a cover, it was completed by the end of December.
In the future, I’ll likely write an article about my alpha and beta readers. They were invaluable contributors to my final result. And if by chance any are reading this article, thank you.