Well, it’s February. You know, the month I was supposed to release A Year with the Baptists into the big, wide world. (Best laid plans, and all that jazz).
Several months ago, I was plugging away at the first draft of A Year with the Baptists, a little over half way through one of those stories-within-stories (the story of how Emma came to be the way she is at the beginning of the book), and I had an epiphany.
This was not the story I wanted to tell.
A Year with the Baptists was always supposed to be about Emma finding her voice, from the first note I made. Instead, I found at the end of October, the majority of the story (about 70K of 90K words) was about Emma not having a voice, and not really caring, until she runs herself into the ground. Obviously, that kind of history is important, and being part of Emma’s story, I have to reference it, but it was never where I wanted the bulk of the focus to fall.
I made a decision to nix the 70K backstory, and write A Year with the Baptists as a short story instead, and as it turns out, it was a good decision. These later drafts have been more focused and more what I want them to be.
I don’t just want to release one short story, so I’m pulling together a collection on identity. Faith and family are strong secondary threads. As it happens, I have quite the arsenal when it comes to these themes. I plan to include Emma’s story (A Year with the Baptists), a poem about growing up in a passionate (read: strongly-opinionated) and faith-filled family (Heretic Is a Word), the story of a minor character from A Year with the Baptists who kind of took off on her own (P.K.), and a story about four sisters that I’ve been working on for over ten years now (no title yet).
So, A Year with the Baptists is now A Year with the Baptists and other stories. I’m not sure when I’ll be releasing it, or even how. I’d like to say you’ll have it in your hands before my big relocation, and that I’m taking the self-publishing route again, but the truth is, I really don’t know. I will just be taking things one step at a time, and keeping you all posted as I go.
A friend recently asked if I felt bad about having written so much that I’m now leaving behind in favor of a shorter story, both in A Year with the Baptists and the final story in my collection. Honestly, it’s hard to leave behind beloved characters and scenes – it’s known as killing darlings for a reason, but it’s ultimately going to make for better stories. I’ve come to view these backstories as notes, the kind where I’m really getting to know my characters and how they tick, and I’m reminded of that every time I try to make something happen in the story that’s just not gelling. I think, “Oh, yeah, no, so-and-so wouldn’t do that.” In other words, I feel a little bad, but not too bad.
I have this weekend to really focus on writing, so guess what I’ll be working on? That’s right, A Year with the Baptists and other stories.
Let’s do this!