As I’ve been writing GTT, something about the three story lines has been nagging at me. My original intent was to try and write the entire project chronologically, which would let each line evolve into their own while at the same time meld together into one cohesive unit, but deep down I got this feeling that something was just not right. Not knowing what to do I kept working at it, trying to make things work (think square peg in a round hole), but the feeling just kept getting worse and worse until I could not write anything more. Oddly, it felt like everything was so fragmented and in pieces that it was overwhelming to even think about putting them back together.
Ok. Time to take a big sigh and move back from the project and let the Research and Development (R & D) part of my brain to get to work on a solution. So that is what I did for a few days. I also researched how other writers handled multiple story lines then thought about how I wanted to handle it. What I decided to do was to separate each line and work as if each one was its own story, then put everything back together.
At that, I felt a tiny bit of panic as my inner critic spoke up. “Once you separate them out, how will you know how and where put them back together again?” But I felt like I was on the right track and that this is what I needed to do so I sent him to his room and ordered him to not say another word. Once I did that, R & D arrived with a solution. It was not an “a ha” moment but more like a “duh” moment and I felt silly why I could not figure it out any sooner:
I am writing historical fiction. I have an historical timeline. There are natural breaks in the events I’m writing about. When it comes to one of those breaks, change story lines. Duh.
Now I felt much better about my decision, but once I separated the three lines out, I was startled to learn that I had a big problem: the majority of what I had written is Mel’s story and only a tiny fraction is of Benito and Ebenezer. My heart sunk as I sat there and looked at the numbers. I did not want to believe what I saw. How could this be? Surely I had written more of Benito and Eb.
I understand that if a novel has multiple story lines, one does not necessarily have to give equal time to each one. It all depends on how much each line gives to the overall story. With GTT, I wanted to tell everyone’s story. To make sure each has nearly equal face time because they are all very important in providing depth to the overall story.
Once I got over my surprise, I am really glad I did this. Not only can I still write the story chronologically like I wanted to, but now I know that if I had kept trying to force it, I would have cheated two of my three main characters from telling their story.