(The view from Valocano Barú, Chiriquí, Panama.)
It’s time again for another Waking From Innocent Dreams author update. In my last email, I wrote about the stop-start nature of writing and how I decide what to include in the story. If you missed that update, you can find it in the newsletter archives on my website.
Over the past month, I’ve continued to work through the 12 chapters that make up Act 2A. When I sent out my last update, I thought I was close to finishing this section, but I eventually realized that Chapter 22, where my character debates what he should do after college, was not working. After rewriting that chapter and adding a few more scenes, I was finally able to begin editing.
It took a little over a week to complete the edits, after which I sent it off to some early readers. It turns out that all that extra work was worth it because I’ve gotten feedback from a couple of people saying how much they enjoyed Act 2A.
In storytelling terminology, this section is called “Fun and Games,” or “The Road of Trials,” and what I love about these chapters is that they reflect both of these ideas. My character not only goes on several fun adventures, such as hiking a volcano in Panama, but he also faces many trials, such as completing college and navigating difficult family situations. Along the way, he collects the skills he will need for later in the journey.
Part of the magic of writing is that I don’t know how much of the ‘fun and trials’ I planned out ahead of time, and how much of it appeared organically. Either way, I’m thrilled with how Act 2A turned out.
In August, I got some interesting feedback from a close friend who read the first 12 chapters of my book. He commented that he had a hard time believing the story is fictional because it all seems real. I took this as a compliment because it means that the storytelling techniques I’ve been studying are working. However, this raises an interesting question:
Does calling my story a work of fiction make it less real?
I’ve been thinking about this question and his comment a lot over the past month because it’s something I have wrestled with since the very beginning of the project. The main reason I’m calling the book an autobiographical novel rather than a memoir is because I rely so heavily on the tools of fiction. In places, I’ve simplified events to make the narrative easier to understand, and in others, I’ve combined several people into one archetypal character. But do these artistic liberties take away from the realness of the story?
I think not. My friend’s comment made me realize that the fictionalization of my story is forcing me to express thoughts and feelings that I was unable or unwilling to talk about at the time. This is especially true regarding almost all the dialogue about my birth mother, Ana Milagro. While I had a desire to search for her as a teenager, I don’t think I could have ever talked about her as freely as my character does.
So while the story may not be factually accurate, I do believe it represents the truth of my experiences and captures many aspects of my journey that I was unable to share with my friends and family as it was happening.
This month I will begin work on the second half of the book! It feels great to be half way done with my manuscript, but I've got to keep my eyes on the prize because there is still a long way to go.
As I’ve mentioned before, I like to work on the book in 12 chapter chunks because it makes the story easier to manage. Next, I will be rewriting Act 2B, which in storytelling terms is called “The Ordeal.” This is where the hero faces his greatest challenge, and in my book it revolves around the work I did for my family’s silkscreening business in Panama.
Before I start working on a new section, I take time to plot the scenes and chapters that go into it. This process usually takes a week or two, but I had so much momentum coming off of Act 2A that I finished this task in a matter of days! That means I should be able to start writing later this week.
I hope you are well, and I will be back next month with another update.