Writing guidelines for Legacy of the Tropics varies from instructions for other stories. That may be true for the way many books are composed. With Legacy of the Tropics, first of all, I always heard novellas was a no-no. No one published them; no one liked their shortened length for telling whole stories. Well, compulsive me had to do it my way.
by Mary Deal
Once it was published, the first professional personal who read this book was an editor with The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai in Hawaii. She was only there a short while and, forgive me, I’ve lost her name. After reading the book in order to post a blurb in the newspaper, her comment was, “Stories that shatter the myths of stereotypical islands of paradise.” She said exactly what I wished to convey in this book.
The first of many writing guidelines is that a Logline or overall Synopsis of the book must be written. Normally Loglines are 50 words or fewer. In this case I took liberties, going against standard writing guidelines, and made my Logline longer because each of the three stories would have their own synopsis.
The Logline for the book overall:
Stories that shatter the myths of stereotypical islands of paradise; a rewrite, expansion and dramatization of the novel, The Tropics, where two women fall prey to nature's wrath during inclement tropical weather, face death at sea, and are tested to the limits of survival.
Promises - In Promises, during the late 1960s, the ketch, Mercy, sinks during a sea storm off Culebra near the Virgin Islands. Ciara Malloy assumes custody of her drowned fiancé’s son and learns a devastating secret about the boy that changes her life forever.
Adrift - In Adrift, in the late 1990s, underwater photographer Lillian Avery gets caught in a rip current and swept out to sea off Kauai in Hawaii. In facing death, she finds a way to leave a message behind.
Reunion - Years later, in Reunion, the two former neighbors from Puerto Rico reunite on Kauai. A hurricane wreaks island-wide havoc. Ciara is missing, presumed dead. Among the rubble, Lillian finds Ciara’s memoirs; a life history that threatens to expose secrets tightly held since the sinking of the Mercy.
Adrift was the first story I wrote. The original title was Caught in A Rip. At the time, I was a member of Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope website for writers. I submitted Caught in a Rip to an on-site contest after receiving a whole slug of 10-star reviews. Coppola’s people held the story for over a year. Other writers insinuated that Coppola’s people were trying to decide what to do with this fantastic bit of writing. However, novellas being unpopular then, the story was finally released back to me.
However, in the meantime, I loved writing sea stories, both long and short stories, and had written Promises (also, under a different name). Once the first story was returned, I still longed to write a complete adventure novel. Remember, this was my very first foray into writing. Yet, if novellas were frowned on in most writing instructions, I had to somehow overcome those rules.
I conjured that if I wrote a third story, that would give me a high enough word count to call the combined three stories a novel. But wait. Three novellas don’t make a novel. Instead, it would be called a collection of stories. I had to come up with a way to combine the three stories into one major plot.
My Muse came to the rescue. Disregarding writing guidelines, I decided to go back into the first and second stories and entwine the lives of both protagonists, which had been totally separate in either story. Then all I had to do was write that third story and bring the two together. Hence, Reunion was written. (But as a teaser, let me day that the reunion is not necessarily about the two women alone.) Before I called this book a novel, I ended up editing many, many times to assure the women and their lives and the time lines carried forward through the years as each story progressed. It worked and it shows in the reviews.
If you are a new writer, I don’t suggest you attempt to change writing guidelines. Study and learn. Only by knowing true writing guidelines can you alter them.
Read more about Legacy of The Tropics and sea stories.