|Candlewood Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I had never written a book before this, and knew little about writing fiction. After passing the book by my writing partner, I became convinced it needed a major rewrite. I put it aside while I thought about just what I wanted to do with the book.
In the year or so after I finished the story, I enrolled in and completed the Institute of Children's Literature course, signed up for an online writing group, and studied the craft of fiction. Then I rewrote the novel. I completed the first draft and signed up for a course on editing. After reading the first assignment, I decided to use chapter three rather than either of the first two. Why? Because it was more interesting.
Yup, the first two chapters were back story. After consulting with both my fellow students and the instructor, I removed them. They dealt with the fire itself and its immediate aftermath, and 'd done a fair amount of research for those chapters, to say nothing of the time I'd spent writing them. I saved them saved them in a folder on my computer before I could bring myself to cut them out.
The story is set in a semi-rural community outside a small town in Connecticut where my main character's grandmother lives. The house, the community, and the town, are modeled on the house my father owned in Birch Groves. Birch Groves, on Candlewood Lake, is a few miles outside New Milford. The grandmother was inspired by my own sons' grandmother. My mental picture of the house that burned down is taken from her home in New Jersey.
I need to be able to picture something to write about it, so I needed to be able to see the layout of the homes, where the furniture was placed, what the trees around the house were, the roads, the lake. As I wrote the story, I pictured my characters moving around in my father's house, wandering up the same roads I had walked down so often as a child, and riding the bus to school.
My friend endured a tragic loss, one from which, in some ways, he never recovered. None of us can rewrite the past, but by writing my story, I was able to move on in my own life.