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Oh, the best laid plans. . .
With less than three weeks till deadline, I just discovered an absolutely insurmountable snag in my story.
Actually, after 18 books, I know there are no insurmountable snags, but that’s how I’m feeling at the moment. And since I can’t figure out how to surmount the snag right now, I’ll blog about it instead. 🙂
Here’s my snag: It’s too late for me to change something that happened in Book One (BEFORE THE STORM), and now something I thought would fall neatly into place in Book Two (AFTER THE STORM). . . well, it won’t.
My character, Keith, is eighteen years old in AFTER THE STORM. He has to be eighteen for certain elements of the plot to work. This morning, though, I suddenly realized that some of the dates in the story don’t make sense. I pulled out the final manuscript for BEFORE THE STORM, created a new “date chart” and began taking a critical look at what happened when. (That involved numerous gestational charts, among other things!) To my horror, I discovered that Keith is only seventeen, and that changes everything. I stared at the dates and tried to twist and turn them so that I could squeeze another couple of months into Keith’s age, but not only is he just seventeen, he’s barely seventeen and a half. 
I’m at my wit’s end. Can you tell?
Now, the truth is, if I wrote that Keith is eighteen in AFTER THE STORM, readers would probably never notice the disparity. (Of course, NOW readers will definitely notice. Hmm. Maybe I should delete this blog entry. . . ). But it would be so wrong for me to tamper with the accuracy of my tale.
So here is my plan. I’m going to check the dates one more time in the hope that I’ve made an error in calculation. If by some miracle he’s gained six months since the last time I checked, I’ll keep working for another couple of hours. If not, I’ll go to bed. Then, in the morning, I’ll make a few research phone calls to find the least plot-disrupting solution. And the revisions will begin.
Till then, I’ll leave you with a picture of one of my recent houseguests because it makes me happy to look at, and I need a little happiness right now. This is my great-niece, Joanna, who became instant best buds with my pup, Jet.
Pleasant dreams.
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27 Comments

  1. Ann on February 27, 2008 at 12:12 am

    Diane, so sorry about the snag. I am sure you will work it out! The picture is so sweet – that is true love.

  2. Margo on February 27, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Joanna is darling!…priceless picture Diane.
    The tension for you must be awful right now, especially after realizing this snag. Maybe this has happened for a reason and something unexpected will unfold in the story…is it possible that Keith could discover he’s not who he thought he was and realizes his age is also a lie? I know this is a far fetched idea especially since I don’t know anything about the sequal or this character, but I’m just wondering if this ‘snag’ could possibly shape a new idea. ?

  3. Liz on February 27, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I know zip about the creative process, but I do agree with Margo – this happened for a reason and things happen the way they are supposed to. I’m anxiously awaiting your progress toward the solution. I love all the pictures you post! Hope by now you have figured out the snag.

  4. Brenda on February 27, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Diane-since we read your books over and over-devour them so to speak-we would have definitely noticed. In fact, when reading series of books, I often find these things-however, I just read them and go on…For you-the perfectionist-it is an awesome task-something that will cause aggravation, etc…
    I am sure you will work it out-with much work…however…I have no suggestions…other than change whatever has happened…If he HAS TO BE l8, it MIGHT be something legal…I would guess…perhaps he will do something that is NOT LEGAL…or that part of the story will HAVE TO GO AWAY…this often happens.
    Last night in class, I had a difficult time getting one student to TELL me her story instead of show me…her question, “Isn’t a narrative “telling”??? It is difficult to teach writing and to write.
    GOOD LUCK.
    I am having a “snow day”…roads are bad in this area…no school-not good news because we now are losing part of spring break.
    Brenda

  5. Brenda on February 27, 2008 at 10:40 am

    As you can tell, I wrote the opposite of what I was thinking-I wanted the student to show me not TELL…senior moment there.

  6. Diane Chamberlain on February 27, 2008 at 10:45 am

    I’ll write more later, but just wanted y’all to know everything’s fine! He’s still seventeen, but I’m working it out. . . and it does give me some additional “stuff” to add to the story.
    Hugs all!

  7. Julie on February 27, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Wow, that’s got to be a heartstopping moment. Make detailed notes about how you felt when that happened for future reference, huh? I’ve been trying to do that lately–when I experience an unusually intense emotion, if I have the wherewithal to do it, I try to notice everything about it so I can write that emotion true in the future. Sometimes the teaching moment has entirely passed before I think of it, though.
    I am so glad you were able to work it out. (Not that I didn’t have the confidence for a minute that you wouldn’t. 🙂
    I’m really and truly finishing my first complete draft of my WIP sometime today or tomorrow! What a great feeling. I think I’m avoiding it a little, though. Silly me.

  8. Liz on February 27, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Diane – I’m glad you worked out “the snag”. I agree with Brenda that we devour your books, but I’m inattentive to detail. Now and then I notice a glitch somewhere with someone, but it only makes the author more human to me. Although, I do wonder how editors miss it! I love that you share as much as you do – I’ve never tried to be inside the process so this really fun for me. I’m all the more eager to get to these STORM books and find out what your snag was. If that makes any sense. Maybe we don’t get to know about the snag.

  9. brenda on February 27, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Liz-I’m with you. Diane has me more intrigued than ever now…

  10. Diane Chamberlain on February 27, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Okay, I have a few minutes now to discuss the “snag.” It amazes me how something that seemed so insurmountable one day seems like nothing 24 hours later. I certainly was in darma queen mode when I wrote that blog post!
    So, this morning I contacted the NC Department of Social Services to see how this 17-year-old boy would be dealt with by the system. (When I thought he was 18, it wasn’t going to be a problem). The social worker I spoke with was thoroughly annoyed by my call, and I don’t blame her a bit. She told me she had real life cases piled up on her desk and the auditors were there and everyone was freaking out and I, as a former social worker, completely sympathized. Still, I was so desperate that I tried to get an answer to my question, but I could tell this woman was in no mood to talk to someone with fictional problems. 🙂
    So then I turned to another wonderful resource, a huge group of women in the Raleigh, NC area called the Wild Wacky Wonderful Women of the World. I discovered them when I first moved here. They are movers and shakers, let me tell you! They do a lot of work for the local women’s shelter and they have energy and ideas to spare. I emailed the group with my question about Keith. Within hours, I had several helpful replies, one in particular, that told me exactly how I could finesse the situation so that his age was no longer a problem. And as Margo suggested in her comment, Keith being younger actually helps the story a bit. (Margo, as for the other ideas in your comment–if you ever give up painting, I think you have a future in writing fiction).
    Julie, I’m excited that you’re almost done with your WIP. What will you do once you finish?

  11. Julie on February 27, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Revise, revise, revise. 🙂 I hope it’s at a point in the next several months where I can start trying to query and land an agent and/or contract, but I know the revision process can be lengthy, too, and I certainly don’t want to send it off half-baked.
    I successfully managed to completely avoid writing today. Tomorrow, it’s off to the library where I will surely get it done.

  12. Margo on February 28, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Diane, I don’t think I’ll ever give up painting so I’ll leave the writing to you because YOU are brilliant at it!…(and I wouldn’t even know where to begin).
    I’m appalled at the social worker who didn’t want to help you. Everyone has day to day problems to deal with and are ‘busy’ with 1 thing or another but I think she should have taken just a little time to help you out…a few answers to your questions couldn’t have taken too much time and frankly, she should have been honored by your phone call! Diane, as busy as you are I bet that you would never brush someone off like that if they called for your help.
    I’m glad things are resolved…deadline is almost here, right?

  13. Liz on February 28, 2008 at 10:16 am

    In my 30 years of working as social worker, thank God I have never worked for DHS. I have not had good experiences with them, except for one who is a friend. I’m not defending them, but they truly are overworked, underpaid and undereducated for the clientele they deal with. I wish I didn’t know so much about family systems because there is almost nothing that can be done to help. The clients’ patterns of behavior have been there for generations & DHS can only put a bandaid on – no real treatment and the burn-out is intense. They seem to adopt a “defensive” persona and almost challenge you to come to them. I often go with students to DHS just to support, and I run into enough attitude and general dismissiveness, that I have trouble maintaining a pleasant facade. But if you’re not nice, nothing gets done. DHS workers become as stuck as someone in the system because they seem to have some sort of “tenure” and can almost never be fired and have great government benefits. My brother-in-law lives in Boone,NC and used to be a psychologist in Charlotte – had the same experiences. I think there must be universal DHS training to be as difficult as you can be. Of course, the clients are difficult, too. Enough of that rant! Sorry you had to go throught that, Diane, but I love the W5 – would love to belong to a group like that. Once I retire I will recoup some energy for again being an advocate. Margo – I had to reread your blog as I tend to skim the first time, but I love that you “developed” your own plot. Talent, talent, talent. I hope to discover mine.

  14. Margo on February 28, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Liz, I have a vivid imagination which was nurtured from my artistic mother at a very young age. She was, and is my role model and always encouraged me to express myself thru art. Thank you for the compliment. I truly believe that everyone has talent in one form or another whether it be writing, drawing, painting, inspiring others, cooking, singing, dancing, mathmatical…I bet yours is 1 of these things or probably something I haven’t mentioned. Everyone has something to offer. (-:

  15. Diane Chamberlain on February 28, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Liz and Margo, I hope I didn’t sound too hard on the DSS (it’s called DSS here in NC) worker. I am in her corner. Liz, when you say they are overworked and underpaid, that is the truth. And Margo, I DO appreciate the sympathy, but imagine your desk covered with casework on real life abused and neglected children you’re trying to figure out how to help with no time and limited resources, and then some bozo writer calls wanting information for someone who doesn’t even exist. lol. I really felt for the social worker. If I hadn’t been so desperate at the moment, I wouldn’t have given her such a hard time.

  16. Margo on February 28, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I know what your saying Diane and I have compassion for the lady…I just don’t think it would have taken that much of her time to help you. And by the way,
    your a far cry from a bozo writer! A PHENOMENAL writer is more like it. (-:

  17. Liz on February 28, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Yeah, I knew it was DSS (from my brother-in-law); here it is DHS – dept. of HUMAN services. There seems to be little human about it. The history of my so-called career seems almost comical at time – a little like Catch-22. In the mid-to-late 70’s, I worked at a psychiatric hospital where patients were kept for a long time – months, years. There were county homes and other psych. institutions for people who couldn’t live independently. Then the nebulous “they” began shutting down these facilities and discharged people with little to no planning or follow-up. And we wonder why there are so many homeless people. Then I worked at a mental health center that created a program for the “chronic mentally ill” – these were the former in-patients who, by then, had to live somewhere, anywhere, but they were not able to maintain consistent lives – a home, a job, a family because they were sick – so we had “community support” where they could come during the day and learn “self-help” skills and do “normal” activities. My heart breaks for them. Most community mental health centers created these programs to try to deal with these very difficult clients. Many of them are the “street people” and most likely are substance abusers because they ARE sick and don’t have access to the things we take for granted – like health care and legal medications. Then I worked for a residential treatment center – this was a group home that was to provide treatment for teen-agers who were court-ordered to us. This briefly took kids out of a crazy family and provided some stability and routine while the kids tried to grow up a little and learn there were other ways to live than in a dysfunctional, abusive home. My family laughs at me, but Law & Order truly is “ripped from the headlines”. Kids don’t run away from a safe family. Violence doesn’t occur when a person’s basic needs are met. After that, I worked at an alternative school. These schools try to provide a high school diploma for those who can’t fit into the “traditional” high school. Some of them have babies. Some of them don’t have a ride to school or they have to work. Most of them have drug and alcohol problems and live with a single parent who doesn’t have steady employment or a car or has an abusive partner. It goes on and on. The DHS and DSS workers see the same people for years and years, only they have different faces. My current job at the community college is with a grant that is supposed to increase retention and ensure students successfully complete their programs. I have a case load of 60 students that I”m supposed to meet with weekly. Anyway, one of my talents clearly is to rant about society’s ills! Too bad it’s not finding solutions. So, Diane – because of your background, you have such richness for creating your characters – so much depth – I can’t wait to see what you do with Keith. Margo – you are so lucky to have had the creative nurturing – my husband is very artistic – music, painting, photography, and our children are like him. Nurturing those talents is the best thing we have done. I do love to cook and believe one talent comes out there. At least, my famly andfriends think so. Well, again, sorry about the rant – I’ll try to curb my fingers on the keyboard.

  18. Brenda on February 29, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    How sad. As a teacher (English and Psych majors), that a woman did not have time to help you. WHAT IF YOUR Book touches someone (or more) and helps them? I know how busy I am as a teacher with two jobs. Can you imagine me telling someone I could not help them? I am sorry. I can’t have sympathy with the woman…not working the way I do and dealing with so many students. Several times A DAY students come to me when I am overwhelmed, and I stop and help them. THE WORK GETS FINISHED…
    It all sounds interesting.
    DIANE-Do you think these two books will be high-school appropriate for GIRLS? Ages l6-18??? My “girls” who are reading some of my favorites are asking me.

  19. Brenda on February 29, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    P.S.
    Diane, you might be the only “famous” author who does not have an assistant to do research…I admire you. I do not know how you do all that you do.
    Sorry I still can’t find sympathy as I BELIEVE your book will touch lives and IS IMPORTANT…

  20. Diane Chamberlain on February 29, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Brenda,
    I used an assistant for a couple of books a while back, and while it certainly helped, I felt frustrated because the research always inspires something new in the story. If I’m not the one doing the research, I’d never “catch” those gems.
    Yes, I certainly think the books, while written for the “adult” market would be great for mid to late teens. They do have some “bad” words in them, especially AFTER THE STORM which is partly written from the point of view of an angry SEVENTEEN-year-old male. I’ve heard from many of my readers that they start letting their kids (mostly daughters) read my books at 14. I’d be more comfortable with 15, actually, but parents know they’re kids better than I do.

  21. brenda on February 29, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks.
    Sorry I was so upset earlier…but it is imperative that others understand that ONE way to reach others is through literature…forgive me…
    Glad you are getting this one finished…I can’t wait.

  22. brenda on March 1, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Lovely cool Sat. A.M. NO SNOW–yea!!! I was up bright and early-really going to start the day out right. Went to get a short, short haircut…my students will be astounded. Put on homemade cheesy potato soup at 7:00 A.M. Just discovered I forgot to plug in the crock pot. Alas! Senior moments…My daughter and two of the girls are on their way from Indy…for the weekend. That will be fun. My children are talking to me about doing ONLY one job next year-the high school job that pays my way…I love the college job, but maybe they are right…
    I am tired.
    Hope all of you enjoy the weekend. Margo, I’ll bet you have snow…

  23. Diane Chamberlain on March 1, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    I’m with your daughters on reducing your work hours next year, brenda.
    been there, about the potato soup. ugh. I hope it could be salvaged. you probably thought you were so smart, getting that put together nice and early in the morning.
    i’m about to get my own hair cut. must be something in the air. . .

  24. brenda on March 1, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    My daughter and my son (I have one of each…) have convinced me that l full time job-high school-that pays my bills and insurance-is prob. enough at my age. I love the college classes, but long long days. We are “talking”…
    Am having fun being NANA this weekend.

  25. Rob Lopresti on March 2, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Don’t you love it when the problem turns out to be a gold mine of possibilities? It almost makes the preliminary agony worth it.
    Cheers.

  26. Diane Chamberlain on March 3, 2008 at 12:16 am

    hi rob! i wouldn’t say call it a gold mine, exactly. coal maybe. either way, it all worked out.

  27. Rob Lopresti on March 4, 2008 at 10:01 am

    YOu can do a lot with coal. And great picture of Joanna, by the way.

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