“She went to the toilet and on her way back, opened the wrong door…”
That’s how Lakeside got started. With a “first line” writing prompt. The first line of Lakeside has changed some since then, but the premise is basically the same. (If you want to see an image of what I wrote that night, handwriting and all, check out this pic on Instagram.)
I began writing Lakeside (although not knowing it at the time) at a meeting of my local writer’s group in June 2014. We were spending some time doing creative writing prompts and I got the one above. Jemi was born a minute later, although I called her Jane/Jayne throughout the first few pages. Apparently, I have Jayne’s on the brain.
As I wrote the first thousand words or so of the story during that meeting, I had the idea of a teenage girl who was always the new kid at school and desperately wanted to be popular. That didn’t stick either, except for the part about always being the new kid.
After that meeting, I didn’t do anything with the story I had started, as I was working on other things, but it stayed in the back of my mind as something I wanted to revisit.
Another NaNoWriMo, Another Plot
Fast forward a year and several months later, and I was gearing up to do another NaNoWriMo (I’ve participated in 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015) and I thought about the story I had started. There were several of us in the writers group who were planning on participating and we were planning out what we might do and throwing ideas around. We went through a plotting exercise as a group, and even though I’m a pantser, thought it was a good exercise to at least go through (More Instagram pics of handwritten exercises here).
It was based on a basic formula for writing an engaging plot arc, and here I expanded upon my initial idea of a perennial new girl who really, really wants to be cool. It was going to be about Jemi (I had the name this time) who is delightfully awkward (and still is) and uncool, with which she is totally fine. After a number of random events at school involving starting a trivia team and fighting off a vindictive popular girl, Jemi accidentally becomes cool (I still couldn’t drop the cool thing at this point) but doesn’t really care that much, which makes it all the more funny.
Anyway, it was fun to do these exercises with my writer’s group, but I am very much a pantser at heart so on November 1, 2015, I opened up my laptop and started off from the point I had left off in June of 2014, and immediately took a left turn.
Is that the Lake?
I wrote around 31,000 words that November, which isn’t bad, but isn’t enough to win. Still I was satisfied. I had initially planned for the novel to be right around 50,000 words. A nice short novel. (It ended up being 75,000.)
As I started writing, I was keeping in mind the plot I had arrived at during the plotting exercises, but was completely okay with going wherever the story wanted to take me. And that’s what happened.
Very early on, the issue of the town lake comes up and the story started to revolve around that. I don’t remember how I came up with Lakeside as the town name, but I do know that I had it before the story with the lake started to unfold. So off I went.
In this version, trying to be cool or accidentally becoming cool are nowhere to be found. In fact, though Jemi is new in town, she makes friends pretty easily and, while, not exactly popular, is solidly floating around the top of the middle of the high school social hierarchy so that’s not one of her problems at all. What is her problem is that she needs service hours to graduate and she has none. Since the town lake is in such a pitiable state, Jemi resolves to clean it up a bit and plant some trees, therefore gaining her service hours. She also gains many headaches. 🙂
Psychic Aunts, Bad Energy and Spiders on the Loose
Lakeside isn’t just a contemporary story, although that is the general vibe of it. There is also a supernatural element – mostly the spirits who are said to control the lake and who also reside in the school basement. Jemi slowly makes more and more contact with said spirits and in the end… well, you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out.
Apparently, the lake area is plagued by “bad energy” according to the psychic aunt of one of Jemi’s new friends. This seems to be an opinion shared by other, but not all, townspeople, but Jemi’s not sure what to think about this at first.
Also, tarantulas… Jemi is introduced to three literary-loving spiders by one of her new teachers and proceeds to have more than a couple run-ins with them. Are the spiders, the spirits and the “bad energy” connected? Jemi’s not sure, but she will be pulled into this journey whether she likes it or not.
Contemporary YA with Weird Sh*t
If you’re up for a contemporary YA story with a side of weird, Lakeside is the story for you. Jemi hopes you will come along on her journey, because, God help her, she’s not sure what’s going on, but she’s doing her best. 🙂
Lakeside is currently available as an ebook for $3.99 (Note 10/4/17 – Lakeside is currently free across all retailers for a bit.):
Also, here’s a link that will connect you to more ebook retailers where Lakeside is available: books2read.com/Lakeside
If you like it, leave a review on the retailer where you bought it (Goodreads, your book blog or other social media are great as well). Just a couple sentences with your honest impressions will go a long way toward helping other readers find it.
Lakeside will be in paperback shortly.
P.S. Check out the Scare-alicious YA giveaway. 24 FREE YA Books for Readers Who Like a Good Scare (Uncover is one of them.)