Evolution Isn’t All Bad

CynthiaRuchti tells stories of Hope-that-glows-in-the-dark through her novels and
novellas, devotion collections, speaking, teaching, and a history of 33 years
as a radio writer/producer. Her books have been recognized by RT Reviewers’
Choice, Retailers’ Choice, Family Fiction Readers’ Choice, and other honors. Her
novel When the Morning Glory Blooms (Abingdon
Press Fiction) releases April 1, 2013, and has received an impressive 4-1/2 stars AND Top Pick from Romantic Times. In July, her nonfiction project—Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of OtherPeople’s Choices—releases from Abingdon Press Christian Living.
* * *
 “I can’t imagine
this scene any other way.” … “No, I can’t kill off such a beloved character!” …
“Read my lips. I’ll never write historicals.” …“I’ll never
write contemporaries.” … “You’ll never find the word Amish in one of my
novels.”
I
don’t remember saying the words aloud, but the last of the foot-planting fell
this past month when I keyed in the letters A-m-i-s-h
in the final draft of a novel that releases in 2014. I know. It surprised me,
too.
Another
novel, releasing April 1, 2013—When the
Morning Glory Blooms
(Abingdon Press)—could form an Evolution is Not a Dirty Word chapter of a fiction craft
book. In its earliest form, it had one viewpoint character and one timeline—the
late 1800s. It languished that way in the primordial ooze for years. Not quite
whole. Its limbs weren’t fully formed. The character telling her story did a
lot of that. Telling.  But
I couldn’t imagine the book any other way.
Tenacity
is prettier than stubbornness. So I traded up. I let imagination wander far
enough to include a second era, a second point-of-view character. Better. Now
the story could both swim and crawl. It crawled and swam for three more years. But
I wanted it to fly, too.
On
the phone with a writer friend one day, I moaned, “I feel as if it needs a
contemporary element. A third viewpoint character. A third era. That’s crazy.
How could I make that work? But I can’t get away from the feeling that it needs
the contemporary component.”
“Then
do it,” she said.
Evolution?
In the world of writing, it pairs well with creation. The book that started out
as one woman’s story turned into three women’s stories told in three eras. When
I quit fighting the things I said I’d never do, the novel was free to become
something better, richer, deeper, more satisfying—even to me—than its original
version.
 “I’ll never” may be among the most dangerous
words a writer can utter. Stubbornly clinging to an initial concept could cost
the heart of the story that longs to be told.
Swim.
Crawl. Fly. What questions should a writer ask to help a story evolve to its
full potential?

  1. Would
    the story be stronger in a different setting?
  2. Are
    all the secondary characters worth retaining? Are they worth the page space?
  3. Am
    I stubbornly hanging onto a favorite scene, chapter, line that needs to go…or evolve?
  4. What’s
    missing? Am I brave enough to consider something radical?
  5. What’s
    holding it back from soaring?
  6. Have
    I resisted the depth of research it would take to pull the story out of the
    ooze and onto solid ground? Is resisting fair to the story?
  7. Am
    I tapping into the wisdom of others who have the story’s best interests at
    heart—a wise author friend, my editor, my agent, a mentor…?
  8. Am
    I looking at the words I write as if they are untouchable treasures or as tools
    of storytelling? One will make them petrified. The other will make them
    pliable.
  9. How
    far am I willing to let imagination roam in order to discover what the story
    lacks?
  10. Am
    I thinking dangerously about this story, using words like “I’ll never” or “I
    can’t imagine it any other way”?

Just
a few days from the launch of the novel that evolved when I was willing to ask
questions like these, I’m grateful for the friend who challenged, “Then do it.”
I’m grateful for the editor who said, “Go for it, but make sure all the threads
of all three stories are tied up at the end.” And I’m grateful for a God who
isn’t stingy with imagination, a God who decided creativity was one of the
character traits we could share with Him, a God who cared about the story
before I did and wouldn’t let me settle for half-formed.
If
you pick up a copy of When the Morning
Glory Blooms
, try to picture it with any one of the three eras and three
viewpoint characters missing. It wouldn’t be the same, would it?
When
have you waded through a similar process in one of your own projects? How hard
was it to give up the form you thought the story was meant to take in order to
let it find its breath? 
Leave a comment about that process or your thoughts on
these “evolution” questions so we can keep the discussion going, and I’ll enter
you to win an autographed copy of When
the Morning Glory Blooms
.