August 31-September 1, 2010
Outlining: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Editing: 30 minutes
I have found that I have an easy answer to the immortal and terrifying question of: “so what’s your book about?”
“It’s a Robin Hood retelling” is pretty much all I need to say, and people nod, get it (or seem to), and move on. I’ve gotten to the point where I wish they’d pester me a little more. After all, novelists do sort of like that torturous question of “what’s your book at” more than we let on. I’ve poured a hundreds of hours into Forest of Lies, and a lot of my heart too. I can’t be sure what people think when I say that, but I can’t help wondering if they think: “oh, easy. You’re telling an old story. Cool. I get it. Rob from the rich, give to the poor, etc.” (Hopefully they don’t think: “SOCIALIST!” because I don’t think Robin was. I’ll explain some other time.)
So I’ve got some pride, I guess. I’m not just rehashing the entire Robin Hood story, I really have rewritten it. I’m not only going from Marian’s point of view, I’m changing her view of Robin, I’m changing almost the entire setting, purpose, and what happens in Sherwood Forest. I’ve changed a lot. I’ve worked a lot. It’s not JUST a Robin Hood retelling. (Though at the same time, it is.)
Also, I don’t believe a well-done (which I’m striving to make mine) or original (mine already is) rewriting of Robin Hood deserves the label of “fanfiction” that some people might give it. (I have met those people.) Or, to look at it another way, Robin Hood, like King Arthur, is an ultimate fanfiction that dozens of authors have wanted in on. That works for me too. To write a Robin Hood is to join a long line of tradition. Even in an original story that is very obviously yours you’re still in the tradition. Even if you choose not to call him “Robin” and instead go with “Robert” or “Fynn” those years of minstrels singing Robin Hood, plays showing Robin Hood, and novels depicting Robin Hood are still behind you.
I suppose another reason for the quick acceptance of that one sentence to encompass my entire writing life of four years is also in the “well, what do I ask now? That sums it up, doesn’t it?” Or maybe they go: “okay, this person is weird...writing Robin Hood...that’s old-fashioned...” I also believe that sometimes when people ask ANY author that, they don’t really want to know. It’s a polite thing to do, but not many understand what writing a novel is like. Answering as simply as I do gives them a good way out, so maybe I shouldn’t enact my evil plans of describing plot when they’re really not interested. Among writers, though, I may begin more like this: “It’s a Robin Hood retelling where Marian wants to marry the Sheriff, Robin’s outlawed partially because of heresy, and the last thing Marian wants to do is stay with him in Sherwood Forest.”
I think that’d get a few ears pricked.