Monday, August 12, 2013

Writing "The Experiment"

As I finish up the last round of revisions for The Experiment and prepare to format it for publishing, I have been thinking about my experience writing it and the different things that inspired and influenced it (which is a rather diverse group of things). The Experiment was very easy to write, except for these last revisions to the end, and a really neat experience that I am glad to have had.

The Experiment is essentially two narratives woven together into one story. One follows the Raingold family: Audrey, Ginnie, Abby, Ian, and Collin, and the other follows Anne and Edmund Rubin. They all range in age from 14 down to 2. Each narrative was originally its own story.

I can't remember which I had the idea for first. The Raingolds' story comes first in my book of plots, but I don't always write down ideas in the order I have them, and I feel like the Rubins' story came first. Whichever it was, they both came from dreams. In the dream that inspired the Rubins' story, I was supposed to stay in a room with an old woman in a bed named Georgie in order to stay safe. I left the room and ended up being chased by a creepy guy. I yelled for Georgie to save me, but someone named Linus rescued me instead. I knew I had to somehow turn that into a story, and somehow the dream became inseparably connected with the idea of a mad scientist. I'm pretty sure this was because of the episode of Gilligan's Island where the mad scientist takes the castaways to his island and switches their minds with each other, though the scientist in The Experiment is a little less crazy and more realistic.

I know I had the dream that inspired the Raingolds' story around November of 2010 because I remember thinking about the Raingolds while sign waving on Election Day. In that dream I was with my sisters and a young man named Adam. (His name was Adam because I had been reading several of Madeleine L'Engle's books containing a character named Adam.) We were trying to go home. We went by Adam's house and found it to be abandoned. Then we were on a bridge and Adam and two other boys were fighting bad guys. Two other girls were there and they introduced themselves to me and my sisters as Jen and Kansas. Again, I knew I had to make a story out of it. This one was more influenced by Glenn Beck than Gilligan's Island, however. It was a government taking over, children taken away from their parents, dystopian future of America kind of story.

After finishing Across the Stars, I marked all the stories in my book of plots I thought I might write next. These were among them. Then one morning, I was thinking about these two ideas and realized they sounded like two sides of the same story. I decided I had to weave them together into one. It took me a few weeks to come up with a beginning, though to be honest, I hadn't really been trying before. I figured out my opening paragraph while I was riding my bike around our neighborhood in the evening of May 22, 2012. I worked on that story just about every spare moment last summer. I wrote sometimes while watching TV, I wrote sprawled on the floor in the living room while my sisters were at piano lessons, on the way to my violin lessons, in my room wrapped in a blanket at my desk (my chair is directly underneath the air condition vent), and even in my friend's car in the middle of going door to door for a local candidate. I finished the rough draft on August 27, 2012, by far a record for me.

It underwent major surgery after my mom read it, there were many inconsistencies in it, and unexplained things that needed to be explained, and so I changed many sections, rearranged chapters, and added extra passages. Before a year had passed, I had finished all of these revisions. I am now trying to make the ending more exciting and less abrupt after hearing back from one of my test readers, who my sister quickly agreed with.

I am really excited about publishing it, I can't wait to share The Experiment with the world. But it's not the sort of story one wants to come true. In fact, I hope none of it ever comes true. It is a sort of warning, of where America could go if we are not careful, though there are some sci-fi elements I don't expect to ever be possible . . . at least I hope not. Even so, I love the story, and I hope you will too.


  1. "It underwent major surgery after my mom read it."

    Moms are good for things like that:)

  2. Sounds good. Can't wait to read it!

    I had to laugh at the mention of that Gilligan's Island episode. That was one of our favorites. I haven't thought about it in years. :D

    1. I can't wait to hear what you think of it.

      It's one of my favorite episodes of Gilligan's Island, too. :) It's just so ridiculous it's funny.


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