Well, I’m done the first draft of my novel River of the Stick Wavers, and I’ve sent it off to my editor. What do I do now?
Lucky for me I won’t have to spend weeks searching for a new project. My son gave it to me as a gift one day when he approached me with a picture he found on the cover of an old Life Magazine. He said it reminded him on one of the characters in River of the Stick Wavers. It turned out to be a younger version of one of my minor characters, Maggie Williams. We first meet Maggie painting in the woods at the French River.
I always liked Maggie. She is an independent sort of character who seems to be a woman out of her time in 1963, when my novel is set. I previously had no plans to write about her, but as soon as I saw her picture, it was like she was calling out to me to write her story. Where to begin?
I figured Maggie to be about seventy in Stick Wavers, so she would have been born in 1893. Factoring in that she should be at least 18 when her story takes place, brings us to 1911. Whooo! Right away I’m thinking a whole different time period. So what have I got so far? An independent woman who likes to paint, born during a time when women were still fighting for their rights. Interesting. So, how am I going to make this character believable? There must have been other women who lived beyond the norm of their time period. This is when I started to check timelines in the art world, of suffragettes — of the world really — to get some ideas of what was going that I could add to the story.
While all this was happening, I was also making plans to go to a Writing Workshop in Paris, Ontario. Simon suggested that the retreat was a good opportunity to just dive in and start to write about Maggie Williams. As it turns out, it was a brilliant idea.
During our afternoon writing time I sat down in front of the computer with her picture beside me and started to figure out who Maggie Williams is. What came out of that afternoon writing was well received by the group and gave me an idea of how to approach the story from a perspective I had never considered before. But that’s a secret.
I returned home from that weekend and started to gather the research materials I would need to help me to bring the story to life. What is interesting here is that I already had a lot of books on my shelf that will be beneficial in the research process. It’s almost like I was meant to write Maggie’s story.
And so it begins.