Just realized I’m on chapter 20. Sounds substantial, doesn’t it? I’m at about 46,000 words and 200 pages, so it’s getting there, baby. I go back and forth lately between thinking it’s brilliant to thinking it’s an absolute mess. I’m worried that Beth’s story doesn’t tie in strongly enough to Olivia’s, that it’s like–SO WHAT? Why not just tell Olivia’s and Anthony’s story?
I think because their story is too internal. Beth’s story provides the movement, the action and immediacy. But why not tell Olivia’s story in that way–tell the story of this mother who has a son with autism, how she first suspects it, then the diagnosis, living with it, etc–and make it linear? Because that’s too predictable. It’s been done. Mother has a child, expects a “normal” life, then there is a diagnosis and a deviated development, a deviated life. This mother’s point of view has been told.
I’m hoping that this story offers something new and unexpected, that readers will learn about the experience of autism from the more severely affected end of the spectrum without feeling like they’re reading a clinical manual, without being hit directly over the head with it. I want to tell a great story and give a voice to this voiceless child. How does he experience the world, emotions, relationships? How does his life matter? I want readers to experience what it might feel like to have this kind of autism. I think a straightforward, linear story of only Olivia and Anthony without Beth doesn’t hold as much power somehow.
So finish the first draft, Lisa, and if there are ways that you can tighten Beth’s ties to autism in metaphor, do it then. You’ve planted the seeds. Make sure that elements from each Anthony and Olivia chapter tie in to elements of Beths’ chapters–illustrate that the spectrum is long and wide, and we’re all on it. And then it will be brilliant, my dear. And when the first draft is done, have Tracey read it, and listen with an open heart to her feedback.
For now though, you are writing chapter 20. So what happens next?