My novel doesn’t start at the beginning.
Is this an inside writing joke?
What I mean is the narrative in my story isn’t ordered chronologically. It wasn’t always that way, but when it was in chronological order, the opening chapters of In the Context of Love read like a YA novel. It is definitely not YA. Something had to change.
Shuffling the Narrative
I needed to start the novel in the present time, when the narrator, Angelica, is an adult, and then have her reflect on her teens.
The hardest part in shaking up the order was finding the best opening. There were four possible scenes that I thought might have worked as a new beginning. To see how the story would progress, however, I had to basically reshape the rest of the novel. This led to weeks of trial and error. I sweated bullets of self-doubt while shuffling index chapter cards on the floor. For a while I was unhappy, preoccupied, snappish, and difficult for my family to get along with. I didn’t even get along with myself!
A new beginning
But once I settled on one particular opening scene, everything seemed right. I still had to work on the transitions so the flashback fit seamlessly into the story. The trick was to make the scenes from the past meaty enough that the reader didn’t mind straying from the present day narrative for awhile.
In the Context of Love begins with a dramatic scene: Angelica is a mother in her early thirties, married to the “wrong” man, and wondering how and why her life went wrong as she takes her two young children to visit him in prison. She then reflects on the turbulent years as a teen when she met her first love and tried to keep her growing sexuality a secret from her mother, while at the same time, her mother was hiding a big secret of her own.
Writing is process.
Often there are times you fear you’re in over your head, or you don’t know what you’re writing about. This is when you have to trust you’ll somehow figure it out. As author A. L. Kennedy says “if you haven’t pulled an all-nighter and written until you can’t remember who you are and produced work you couldn’t possibly have produced and been ambushed by insights and dragged up mountains and over cliffs by ideas that don’t even feel like your own, then you’ve missed a treat. Just my opinion”
The treat is when you see it coming together!
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of In the Context of Love: a new contemporary fiction about love, lust, and family secrets.
Angelica Schirrick had always suspected there was something deeply disturbing about her family, but the truth was more than she bargained for.
“Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s powerful and richly detailed debut novel is at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River, and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters