Inspiration … or Perspiration – Books Hiding in Those Old Manuscripts
I was recently, and pleasantly, surprised by the nomination of my book Striker for a Silver Birch Award. Striker is a soccer-based story about Cody Dorsett, a 12-year old boy, and his struggle to get past a brush with cancer. The illness itself provides the dramatic context to Cody’s search for himself, as he tries to get back to playing the game he loves. Along the way he has to deal with hostile teammates, belligerent parents and team managers, overprotective parents, and a self-doubt based on worries over whether he’ll ever be the same player he used to be. The cancer affected everything in Cody’s life – and Striker takes the reader on that journey with Cody.
The only thing about Striker is the first version didn’t have Cody Dorsett or any mention of cancer – or even a hint of illness. The first version was going to be part of my Game Time: The Charlie Joyce Hockey Series. Charlie Joyce was going to be a multi-purposed athlete. I started with hockey, and then decided Charlie should play soccer. I wrote the book, and for reasons that completely escape me I created a whole bunch of new characters, rather than using the characters from the previous two books. The hockey-related characters got left behind, in other words. Then I figured – that’s really dumb! Harry Potter didn’t make new friends every year at school. Readers want the core group of characters to stay together for a series – and so I rewrote the book with that original core group of characters back in. The new characters got edited out, for what I believed at the time to be forever.
A few agents later, and some comments from my publisher, and I decided it would be best for the Game Time series to stick to hockey (no pun intended – okay, maybe a little). The entire manuscript got hip-checked to the curb (help me!), and I wrote another hockey book called Making the Cut (I promise – no more puns.)
Here’s where the title to this blog comes in. I found a bit of time, and my mind wandered back to that first Striker manuscript with the new characters. I liked some of them – they were screaming at me to save them. They wanted to live.
All I needed was a new hero – and a new emotional hook. Soon thereafter I was re-writing the manuscript and Striker was reborn. Lorimer picked it up, and a Silver Birch nomination later, I’m now busy editing the second book in the series – tentatively called The Beautiful Game.
It’s an old writing cliché, perhaps – but you never know when old manuscript will come in handy; and a good character should never go to waste. Cody’s knew friends helped create the Cody who eventually emerged as a sensitive, quiet, yet determined young man. Once I’d roughed in Cody’s character, the book basically wrote itself.
Have ever had a similar experience with an old story? Ever found yourself falling in love with a minor character and that giving rise to a new book. Let me know about it – and I can share it – and perhaps that will give rise to a new book itself!
Next week: I discuss a decision I need to make on a new manuscript. I have to rewrite part of it – and I could use your advice.