Writing for the present

Hey everyone,

When I set out to write The Found Child, I wanted to make it current. As in 2020, as in the fall of 2020. I wanted Shelby’s story to come full circle, and wanted that moment to be in September and October of 2020.

The first version of this book on my computer is dated October 2018. And that’s just because I bought a new computer and moved everything over. I’m pretty sure I started it long before that, way back in the dark ages when I finished The Stork. That would have been in 2017! So it’s been a long haul.

One of the problems with making a book current is current events. For a story to be truly rooted in the present, the author has to deal with what’s going on in the world around her, whether that be an election cycle, current events, devastating weather, and/or a pandemic!

I thought the first draft of The Found Child was coming to a close back in March. In the beginning of the month, I was editing, rewriting, moving chunks around, rethinking some of the plot. Then, the pandemic hit. I was stumped. Should I rewrite the book, change the year, and place the story in 2019? It wouldn’t have been easy–there’s a lot in the book, subtle, but there, about Sheby’s age, from when she earned her P.I. license to when she moved her office to when she got married. And it’s not just her age, but the age of her spouse, her nieces and nephew, her brother, her mentor, and the adopted twins. It was complicated and had to fit with the previous two books in the series. So, after parsing it out, I decided it would be easier to add Covid in, rather than rework the timeframe.

At first, as I was trying to put into writing what I was seeing around me, I was stumped. Should Shelby and her intern Lucy wear masks in their office? How could I handle the pivotal scene at the beginning of the book, in the boxing gym? How to manage all the interactions that a professional running her own business would have on a daily basis? What about school for her nieces and nephew? Would Shelby go to a restaurant? Or get on a plane to Vegas? And what would it be like to move into a new place back in March, before we had an idea of how Covid would play out in our community?

As Covid wore on, I was able to relax into it and weave in masks and social distancing and hand sanitizer and family bubbles. I submitted the manuscript on August 10. Then, on August 16th, the CZU Lightning Complex Fire tore through our county, requiring another re-think. It was too late now to go back, and take out Covid, in order to change the timeframe. So I wove in the fire.

I created a complete timeline that laid out, down to the day, where Shelby would be. And I realized that because I’d started the book in the second week of September, 2020, I could keep it as it was. Shelby and her roommate, Erica, would have been forced to evacuate based on their location, but with a little creative license, I was able to keep using that location. Whew. Of course, I had to reclaim the book from the publisher and do another editing pass, planting references to the fire. I do hope that Covid and the fires will be distant memories at some point. And I hope it will be fun to read about them five years from now!

As an aside, my paperbacks and hardcover copies arrived today. My reward for all those edits.

Until next time,

Nancy

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