By Cindy Woodsmall
Michelangelo said, I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
While my skills are nothing like his, I can relate to what he meant.
Stories inside a writer’s mind and heart flow easily and are a lot of fun to ponder, but carving a work onto the written page that is free of anything that isn’t “the angel” is hard work, and we, as writers, have to figure out what we must do to free that story.
I had been pondering the story idea that’s now called As the Tide Comes In for many years before my daughter-in-law Erin and I finally met at a coffee shop to begin hammering out the outline.
I’d given the story a working title of Soft Dusks and Noonday Fire, which was inspired by a poem called The Marshes of Glynn, written in 1879 by Sydney Lanier.
I shared with Erin what I knew of the characters and what I was looking for in a setting—a small Southern town with a culture all its own and people to match.
Her eyes lit up as she asked—have you considered Brunswick, where the poem was written or its neighbor, St. Simon’s Island?
I had thought of numerous small towns in Georgia that were connected to Sydney Lanier, but I hadn’t considered a setting that far south. We discussed my story ideas and all that St. Simon’s had to offer. She knew the island well. Her parents had grown up in Brunswick, and she had spent her summers as a child exploring St. Simon’s Island.
Despite all she knew of it and the interviews she could line up with people who’d lived there all of their lives, I knew I couldn’t write a story based on a place I hadn’t been. I needed to breathe in the air, listen to the myriad of sounds, and live a few days where my characters would.
Erin had a solution for that—let’s go there next month!
It would take time and money and effort…but we began making plans to go.
When I went home from the coffee shop, I began an online search for a home to rent on St. Simons. While I scoured the pages, story ideas and excitement for the novel began to build. I made a reservation and began writing on the story. But nothing I wrote worked for me, but I kept trying. I find it odd that as much as the story works inside my head, getting the right beginning for it can take numerous rounds of writing the first several chapters and chucking them. Rinse. Repeat.
Soon we were on the island, and we spent a week in a lovely old home that was incredibly inspirational. Oh, how I long to share its unique beauty with you.
I had to chuck every word I’d written thus far and start fresh…because being on the island and staying in that intriguing old home had stirred my imagination in ways I hadn’t expected.
By the time our week was up and we were packing to return home, I knew we had all the tools we needed to carve the angel out of the marble.
Without seeing the place firsthand and without the wonderful interviews with those who lived on the island, I couldn’t have seen the angel in the marble to even try to carve him free.
What do you need to do to see the angel in the marble and find the tools to set him free?
Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of twenty-two works of fiction. She’s best known for her Amish novels. She’s been featured in national media outlets such as ABC’s Nightline and the Wall Street Journal. Cindy has won numerous awards and has been a finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards. Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. She can be found online at cindywoodsmall.com Cindy’s co-author, Erin Woodsmall is a writer, musician, wife, and mom of the three. She has edited, brainstormed, and researched books with Cindy for almost a decade. She has family roots in the Golden Isles of Georgia, and spent time every summer of childhood on St. Simons Island.