Pen-L Publishing, the house that has published two of my novels (Fling! and Freefall: A Divine Comedy), has also contracted with me to write another that features Tillie Bloom, Freefall’s main character. This new work’s title is Tillie: Portraits of a Canadian Girl in Training, and I’ve been working on it for the past few months when I wasn’t making final revisions to Freefall.
Working on it has reminded me—as if I needed a reminder!—of the tremendous amount of time and patience involved in creating a long narrative. I’ve never tried to continue exploring one of my character’s lives as I’m doing in this novel. Tillie focuses on this character’s earliest years, starting at age three and continuing to age eighteen. Since I already know that the older Tillie is an artist, the trick is shaping the younger Tillie in a way that she will eventually end up in the art world. But I also need to match this young Tillie with her later self in Freefall, a character who is wacky and weirdly wonderful. How did she get there?
It’s also been a challenge to create a young character that will interest an adult reader since this won’t necessarily be a young adult work. I’ve written a complete draft and have returned more times than I can count to each section, looking for places where I can deepen and complicate the youthful Tillie. I’ve had to find ways to share her vision of the world she’s growing up in, for a few years a farm outside of Calgary. Hanging around the animals and doing chores molds her and also creates situations that test her.
This approach means I must constantly pull back and view Tillie freshly, allowing her to expose more layers than what I was aware of originally. It also demands that I ensure her relationships with her mother and her stepfather develop consistently and parallel Tillie’s overall movement. And all of this is before I’ve had feedback from a few beta readers. Those responses will push me even further into my revisions of this novel.
If you want to be a novelist, you must have patience and the ability to re-see your work clearly. I wish you luck on your journey!