Behind the Scenes: Scraps of LUCKY Turn into a Novel

For me, the writing of a story almost always begins with voice, a voice so strong that it carries with it the gender, age, location, and disposition of the character. All I have to do then is think of what could be the worst thing that could happen to that character. If the voice is strong enough, I can drop the character into any situation and know how she’ll react. That’s where the real work begins: finding the right situation to exploit the voice in my head.


While I was in line edits for Me & Jack, I got hit by this image of two girls and a bike. Not just a snapshot image, it was like a short video of an old memory. The girls were in a driveway. I saw lots of trees, and it was that kind of warm/chilly day you get in spring. The main character had just convinced her reluctant best friend to let her ride her new bike (a new bike, and it wasn’t even her birthday!) by agreeing to pay a dollar and a pack of Smarties. As the MC rides away from her friend’s shouted instructions and warnings, she feels as free as the honeysuckle air wafting under her nose, yet she can’t help but compare her friend’s flashy new bike to her own embarrassing old red boy bike, bought for three dollars at a garage sale last year.


The image of these two girls was so strong, I picked up a scrap of paper and wrote down the main character’s viewpoint of that scene, dialogue and all. The words flowed like water from the tap. Other thoughts popped up over the next few days and I wrote them all down. Later, I nixed some of them and expanded others, but what remained were those first words spoken by twelve-year-old Hailee Richardson, owner of the red boy bike. She didn’t know it then, but her whole life was about to change.

The first three chapters are available on my website. If you compare them to the scraps—and if you can decipher my scratchy writing!—you’ll see that the first few published pages don’t differ much from the first scrappy words spoken by my then-nameless main character.

Parts of this book were written on the backs of old grocery receipts, a must-have for every writer’s purse.

I hope you get the chance to enjoy A Whole Lot of Lucky! Keep reading and writing!
This post first appeared in From the Mixed Up Files, July 31st

4 comments:

Barbara O'Connor said...

Love this!!

Danette Haworth said...

Thanks, Barb! Bet you've got your own collection as well!

Catherine A. Winn said...

It's fun getting to see how other writers get the idea and then start expanding on it :) Thanks for sharing!

Charles Gramlich said...

I get those flashes as well. a sudden scene, as if I've been there. As if I were observing. Some good stuff comes out of that.