At some point in the past few weeks, probably last week, I had this idea for a novel. Now I've written novels before: written them, revised them, but never published them. I feel that some of them were good enough to be published. The last one I finished in 2005, revised through 2006, but never actually sent it to publishers or agents. I knew I wouldn't have time to promote it properly with the new demands of my job.
I've been writing short stories, most of them which could be linked into one or more collections. And that's similar to writing a novel, in the way that I, the writer, make discoveries about characters and plot and place, and I have fun making all the connections that would have to be made in book of linked short stories.
But it's not the same as writing a novel, as staying consistent with the narrative arc of just one or two characters--at least the way I wrote my linked story collection was not.
At some point in the past few weeks, I saw a Facebook post from an old college friend. I thought about 19 year old Kristin, who planned to live in an intentional community committed to social justice. But what did I do? I went off to grad school--a different kind of intentional community.
My friend, who also shared my dream, actually went ahead and joined an intentional community. I had forgotten that detail of her life until her Facebook post. I can't for the life of me remember how that part of her history ended. Maybe that will turn out to be a blessing.
I have a vision of a novel with 3 characters, all female, all who have gone to the same, small liberal arts college and respond in different ways. In my writing, I have transformed my undergraduate school, Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina, to Crabapple College in Crabapple, South Carolina.
Much the way that Harper Lee captured a particular part of the U.S. South in a particular time, I would want to do that for a small South Carolina college town in the 1980's, as the Cold War was winding down, but we didn't know that yet.
Or maybe, I'd want to be even more ambitious. At one point, I seemed to be unable to write about any character older than 25. What would happen if the novel moved back and forth in time? What if part of the book explored the midlife of these characters? And by midlife, I mean age 45 or 50.
I am interested in the many ways we live out the dreams of our adolescent selves, but in ways those younger selves would not recognize. Could I write a novel that explores that?
I think I could.
This Year's Summer Reading List: Take a Look!
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