The Evolution of a Story

Four and a half years ago, I finished writing a book called A Broken Kind of Beautiful and wasn’t sure what to write next.

I’m not one of those writers who has a constant overflow of story ideas. A disconcerting thing, especially when I’m around those writers who have a constant overflow of story ideas and like to say things like:

I just started this story, but five other ideas are calling my name!

All the while, I twiddle my thumbs and whistle off in the corner, trying not to panic that I’ve used mine all up.

Anyway, I finished the story about Ivy, a fashion model at the end of a career that has always defined her, and came across this random news article.

It was about this boy who survived a plane crash.

A total miraculous survival, as the plane was completely decimated, along with every other passenger with it.

Enter The Spark!

What a relief this brings, when an idea does strike. I start petting it, cooing to it, like Gollum and the ring.

After I read that article, the wheels in my mind started spinning. I began asking the question every novelist asks, “What if …?”

What if instead of a plane, it’s a train?

What if it’s a big national tragedy?

What if the entire country becomes obsessed with this woman because of her miraculous survival?

What if, in turn, this woman becomes obsessed with the people who didn’t survive? What if this woman becomes obsessed with the dead?

At the time, I considered myself a contemporary romance author, which meant that I needed a hero to go with my heroine.

What if the hero was a man who lost his wife in that same tragedy? A man who wants to forget. Paired with a woman desperate to remember. Ooo. Every novelist loves a bit of irony.

Dredging up the Courage

I have a secret:

I’m a dreadful writer.

My first drafts are never good. Combine that with the fact that I find the blank page terribly intimidating, and well … getting the story down is never easy.

And so, I have to work up the courage to write ugly. To trust the process.

I repeat things to myself like:

You can’t edit what’s not there!

And, don’t get it right, just get it written!

Like Dory, I keep swimming. I write through all the insecurity. There are moments – encouraging bursts of, “There is something here!” – but for the most part, it’s not pretty.

I wrote the rough draft of this particular story all the way back in 2012. A good chunk of it I wrote in Galena, Illinois with my pal Erica Vetsch. We spent the weekend holed up in a hotel, drinking copious amounts of Diet Coke, our fingers flying across the keyboards.

And then I finished and I went through the many, many, MANY stages of editing. The story became functional, something I would actually show another person. Like my agent and my editor.

At the time, it was a romance. Tentatively titled Falling for Autumn, even though I always referred to it as the train story.

Waiting Its Turn

Remember, this was 2012.

Fun fact: When I signed my second 2-book contract with Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing House, they wanted the train story. They planned to publish that one first, The Art of Losing Yourself (which was only a spark of an idea at the time) second.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful was not on the docket at all, even though it was complete and one of my personal favorites.

I sent the synopsis of the train story off to my editor.

She read it, and … we needed to talk.

There were problems. BIG problems. It would require a massive rewrite.

My heart, my friends, just wasn’t in it. My heart was beating for Ivy the model and her journey down in Greenbrier, South Carolina.

So I suggested that we look at A Broken Kind of Beautiful instead. I believed in this book. Believed, believed, believed. I was still wishy-washy about the train story.

And so, we moved forward with Ivy. She was published first. In 2014, she met the world. I got busy bringing Carmen and Gracie to life, the two leads in The Art of Losing Yourself.

All the while, the train story languished in a file on my computer’s hard drive.

Dusting It Off

This brings us into 2015.

I signed my third 2-book contract with Waterbrook, this time, for two books not yet written. These were just little sparks.

I started writing the first. And boy, was it a painful, painful process. This story was not cooperating. The whole thing filled me with angst. No magical moments at all. But I persisted (stubbornly, and foolishly). I pushed through. I finished the worst rough draft ever to exist in the world, and I sent the summary off to my editor.

There were two components of the story she wasn’t a fan of. Slight problem. Those two things WERE the story. I mean, that was it. Take those two things out, and I had nothing. Not to get dramatic or anything, but the thought of going back to the drawing board for this particular book made me want to shrivel into a ball and die.

So I said, in a squeaky, discouraged sort of voice, “Hey, what about the train story?”

While this, too, needed a massive re-write, my heart was drawn to what it once wasn’t. The premise of the story grabbed me, even all these years later.

It was better for my health to work on something that grabbed me, instead of working on something that made me want to curl into a ball and die.

So the rough draft that I had just finished went into hiding. Maybe someday, it, too, will get pulled out and dusted off.

Right then, though, it was the train story’s turn.

Becoming Something New

My editor and I talked about all the various problems. We came up with solutions.

And you guys?

I rewrote this thing from the ground up.

The premise remained. The name of my main character remained. The hero remained. Almost everything else changed.

Along with the title.

Life After by Katie Ganshert

While I was furiously re-writing, my publishing house was creating the perfect face. My editor sent it to me via a private message on Facebook and I loved it so much I told her to, “Shut up!”

It spurred me onward.

Finally, I finished. Y’all, I was in love. The whole process of rewriting, especially in light of how awful the previous failed project had been, felt magical. I was in my element. And so, I emailed it off to my editor with confidence.

And then I waited.

Next Level, Please

The first round of edits with a publishing house has many different names:

Content edits, macro edits, substantive edits.

They all mean the same thing.

Basically, BIG edits. I don’t know a single author whose stomach doesn’t shrink into the size of a raisin at the thought of them.

My big edits have always been extra, extra big. And I was extra, extra afraid this time around. Because I loved this story and I didn’t want to change it.

Enter: the phone call.

My editor had read the manuscript and was ready to talk.

She liked it. Of course, there were some issues. She saw ways to bring it to the next level that would require a substantial overhaul, but if I really liked it the way it was, that overhaul wasn’t necessary.

Whew! This was looking to be my lightest big edit yet.

It had been a good chunk of time since I submitted the manuscript. I needed to re-acclimate myself with the characters. I printed it out at Staples and started reading.

A funny thing happened. I was thoroughly NOT impressed. Which is thoroughly NOT a good feeling.

Afterward, I had a two hour Skype session with my editor, I rolled up my sleeves, and I got to work. Revising and rewriting once again, this poor story that had already taken on so many different shapes and versions.

An Accomplishment

My friends, I can tell you that last night, I emailed this newly revised version off to my editor, once again.

Big edits. Check!

The hardest work behind me. Check!

Sure, there are still line edits, and copy edits. Probably still some biggish issues to iron out. But the hard, hard work is through.

And while I’d love to say that it’s awesome and I can’t wait for you to read it, my eyes are too crossed and my heart too close to have any objectivity at all.

I’ll have to rely on my editors for that.

For now, it is time to start a new adventure, with a new setting and new characters. An entirely different, “What if …”

Let the brainstorming begin!

Cliffhangers, Trilogies, and Money … Oh My!

IMG_3712Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Voxer.

It’s basically the best app known to man. At least, it’s the best app known to anybody who starts to twitch whenever the phone rings, but also isn’t the biggest fan of texting.

Essentially, it’s a walkie-talkie app. Only you don’t have to talk live.

For all you nay-sayers out there wondering, “Why don’t you just leave a voice message?” or “How is that different than that text-talking feature?” Trust me. On Voxer, you NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT SOMEBODY ANSWERING THE PHONE.

It’s basically a guarantee that you will always get their voicemail. Even better? You don’t have to waste time while the phone rings and the outgoing message plays. And you also don’t have to waste time calling your voicemail to check messages. AND! You can talk live if you want, walkie-talkie style, without the stress of hooligan children screaming like banshees because they have a hooligan-banshee radar that starts going off whenever mom puts the phone to her ear. With Voxer, I can totally give them the glare of death and THEN play the next message without being distracted by their general banshee-ness.

If you’re still skeptical, that’s okay. This post isn’t about Voxer.

It’s about how I use Voxer to stay in touch with friends. Especially friends who don’t live nearby, many of whom are fellow writers.

And sometimes, we writers talk shop and sometimes, talking shop involves deep and meaningful discussions about readerly reactions to our work.

One author and I have talked quite a bit about a certain reaction we both get when it comes to our young adult fiction. Both of us have trilogies. And for the most part, our readers thoroughly enjoy them.

But like any work of fiction, there are also readers who don’t.

Almost always, when our books get a heated review, it’s to do with cliffhangers.

And often, those heated reviews come with two common accusations.

Namely, that the book in question isn’t a complete story.

And closely following, this idea that we are money-hungry authors out to make a quick buck.

To this accusation, my friend and I try very hard not to laugh. Something other authors will more than likely understand.

Let’s just say, there aren’t very many of us who are rolling in the dough. By and large, most of us authors are average folk trying to pay the bills doing what we love.

With that said, I thought I might add a wee bit o’ perspective:

The book in question (The Gifting) is currently free.

That means it costs zero cents for a reader to download and enjoy (or not enjoy. It’s all subjective, man.) Zero cost. This book I worked on for months and months costs nada.

Now, this is book 1 in a trilogy. The Gifting Series contains three books in all.

So let’s move on to book 2, also a book I worked on for months and months.

This book is sold at $4.99, a price cheaper than the average fast-food meal, which is consumed, on average, in less than 15 minutes.

Last, but not least, we have book 3, another book I worked on for months and months AND MONTHS, because wrapping up a trilogy in a satisfying way is no joke, people. No joke.

This book is also sold at $4.99.

Altogether, you can get the entire trilogy for just under $10.

It’s a trilogy that has provided thousands upon thousands of readers hours upon hours of entertainment, a fact that delights me to no end. There is nothing more encouraging to an author than hearing from readers who enjoy the work we pour so much of our time, energy, and hearts into, and I have been immensely blessed to hear from such readers.

All this to say:

If a reader isn’t a fan, or doesn’t agree with how this book (or any book) was written, that is TOTALLY copacetic. I get it. Such is the subjective nature of literature. Thankfully, there are a plethora of books and authors to choose from and surely one will strike their fancy.

But for the sake of fairness, I don’t think we can accurately accuse an author of wanting to make a quick buck. There is nothing quick about writing a full-length novel. There is especially nothing quick about writing a complete trilogy. And there is nothing money-hungry about selling months and month and months and months and months of hard work (260,000+ words) for $10.

I mean, we spend that much money on a movie theater ticket, and that’s only two hours of entertainment. Don’t even get me started on the price of popcorn. (Yet, I can never resist buying it, which makes me part of the problem.)

Now, onto the other part.

The cliffhanger part. And the assumption that if a book ends in one, it isn’t a full book.

When the idea for this story came to me, it came as a complete package.

An overarching story (like most trilogies tend to be). I knew where Tess was going to begin, and I  knew where the entire thing was going to end and I also knew that it was going to be BIG.

I promise there was nothing sneaky or manipulative about my intentions. I simply couldn’t put out a 260,000+ word novel. Not only would the length scare the majority of my target audience away, the price point would have to be adjusted accordingly, and that would scare people away, too. And thus, my story would languish in sad, sad obscurity.

While I’m not money-hungry, I am one of those bizarre authors who actually wants readers to read my work. It’s why I write, after all.

The solution?

I found a way to split that overarching story into three separate stories that address three distinct story questions.

The Gifting (book 1) is, in fact, a complete book. The story question in book 1 (Is Tess crazy?) is completely resolved by the end.

Then we have a widening, where the story world grows larger. Readers are enticed to read book 2, which begins a new story question and a new story adventure that is resolved in book 2, followed by another widening, an enticement, and a third story question that is resolved in book 3.

I didn’t do it to be tricky or manipulative. I did it because I had a story to tell and this was the best way to tell it.

If you’d like to try it out at no cost to yourself, The Gifting by K.E. Ganshert (that’s moi) can be downloaded at any of the major online book retailers (follow the link to download from your favorite one). If you don’t want to spend money on book 2, that’s all bueno. Rest assured, you will know whether or not Tess is crazy by the end.

Interestingly enough, book 2 ends on a higher note of suspense than book 1 (similar to how Catching Fire ends on a higher note of suspense than The Hunger Games, and Insurgent ends on a higher note of suspense than Divergent.) What’s interesting about this, to me, is that The Awakening doesn’t receive the heated reviews (in this respect) that The Gifting does. I have theories on this, of course, but these theories are too big in scope for this particular post.

Perhaps I’ll save that for another day.

Have thoughts? Please chime in. I love reading comments. You don’t even have to agree with me. Just please be courteous!

Updates and Cover Reveals and Fun News, Oh My!

The Gifting series

It’s been a busy, crazy summer! Life-wise. But also, writing-wise. I think most of you know that I’ve ventured into new terrain. Not only the world of young adult literature, but also the world of indie publishing.

I’m in the process of putting out my first ever Young Adult series, indie-style. Book 1 (The Gifting) and 2 (The Awakening) are out in the world, and book 3 (The Gathering) will be following VERY soon.

You guys. Let’s talk about the final cover. I cannot stop staring at it. Seriously. It’s perfect in every conceivable way. Major props to Sarah Hansen with Okay Creations on these three beauties! I couldn’t be happier with them.

TheGather Amazon

I have to tell you, this project has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever written.

Wrapping up the series has been bittersweet. Sweet because holy buckets of gravy, ending a trilogy is no easy feat. Penning the end and feeling a measure of confidence while doing so was a two-strand twist of satisfaction and exhilaration. Bitter because you guys. I love these characters. I loved every second I got to spend in their world. I hate to say goodbye.

The good news?

I don’t have to. Not really. That’s the joy of being a writer. Every time a new reader picks up The Gifting and begins Tess’s journey and (even better) tells me about it, it’s like I get to jump into the world all over again. I hope you feel the same way whenever you share The Gifting Series with your friends.

If you’re wanting to stay up to date on the exact release date of book 3, make sure to subscribe to K.E. Ganshert’s email list. The tentative release date was September 8th, but we’re well ahead of schedule, so there’s no reason to make readers wait that long.

Also, a dear reader created this super fun quiz where you answer 12 questions and find out what YOUR gifting would be if you lived in Tess’s world. You don’t even have to have read the books to take it!

On top of wrapping up this series, I’ve also been going through final stages of edits for two novellas releasing this fall. The Perfect Arrangement, which is another Zondervan Year of Weddings novella, and was a total BLAST to write. Light-hearted and giddy and fun, with much of the story told via email messages. Can’t wait to share it with everyone in late September!

The Perfect Arrangement

As well as Guiding Star, my contribution to Amish Christmas at North Star. Yep, you read that right. Amish. Not my typical genre. I guess this is the year of branching out, since I don’t typically write young adult either. The difference is that while I hope to write more young adult in the future, I can’t see myself writing anymore Amish. I truly enjoyed trying something new and I’m 100% happy and excited with how this project turned out. I just flat-out don’t know enough about the Amish to write it. Major props to the authors who do! And major thanks to Cindy Woodsmall and Mindy Starns Clark for holding my hand as I asked them an onslaught of questions! Those women know their stuff.

Amish Christmas at North Star

An October Bride (my first Year of Weddings story) has been nominated for a Carol Award in the novella category. A Broken Kind of Beautiful won a Christy Award in the Contemporary Romance category. An honor I still can’t believe, even when I swivel my chair around and spot this beauty up on the shelf.

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And last, but not least, I signed another contract with Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group. Thankfully, they understand that I’m smack dab in the middle of one of those chaotic seasons. The Gansherts are adjusting to life as a family of four, as well as life with a child with special needs (our daughter was recently diagnosed with cerebral palsy). It’s messy and beautiful and overwhelming and about a hundred other things. Which means, writing time is not currently my top priority. My publisher has been kind enough to give me an extra comfortable cushion for getting this first book turned in.

I can’t tell you how thrilled and humbled I am to be able to continue this journey. To write two more books under the Katie Ganshert women’s fiction/contemporary romance brand. I have no idea what these stories will turn out to be. I only know that God will provide and sustain and equip and mold and speak and I can’t wait to see what shakes out as a result.

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As you can see, I’ve been blogging much less. I’m transitioning away from regular blogging to my quarterly newsletter. I’ve sent out two so far – a spring newsletter back in April, and a summer newsletter earlier this month. Not only do I include a short devotional in each one–from my heart to yours–I also share a couple book recommendations, great book bargains (for readers on a tight budget), and each one includes a book give away! If that sounds like something you’d like to receive, make sure to sign up!