As I mentioned in the first post, my writing journey began 30 years ago when my husband told me I was a good writer and that I should write the next “Great American Novel.” As with all writing, one must have an idea about what to write about, and I had no clue. “Give me a storyline, and I’ll run with it” I said, but he was as lost for an idea as I was.
For 28 years he would give me an occasional nudge about writing a book and I would give him a noncommittal shrug. I can close my eyes and see the place where eight years ago, a kernel of an idea for a book hit me. It wasn’t “Great” and it wasn’t enough of an idea for a “Novel,” so the only thing going for me at that point was it was “American.” The idea simmered somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain for six or more years, without one word committed to paper.
Somewhere along the way I was moved to write two short pieces . . . one about my husband’s love affair . . . with his bike, and the other about my 90-year-old uncle whom I adore. Both pieces, essays if you will, wrote themselves and it felt the sentences were formed even before I sat at the computer. I wrote them for myself, but had a pleasant surprise when they were well-received by people (including non-family members) who read them. Several people insisted I should submit the cycling piece for publication in a magazine. Nothing emboldens a writer like a little praise!
I happened to be alone at our cabin near Lake Tahoe and I said out loud to the forest, “I wonder what would happen if I take my kernel of an idea for a book and start typing?” What happened was I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning writing like a fiend. This was an unusual thing as I start looking at my watch at 9:00 to see if it time for bed. The process was invigorating. I spent the rest of my time at the cabin with cramped shoulders and a knot in my neck from hours at the computer. I loved every minute of it.
But alas, I had to go home, set aside the writing, and lost all motivation. On occasion, I would re-read what I had written and tinker with it, but my writing motivation had stagnated. That is, until I was back at the cabin with a chunk of time alone with my novel and computer. They made for strange bedfellows as they would keep me awake way past my bedtime, but the “novel idea” came to life and I couldn’t set her aside.
Over the next year or so, the “kernel” transformed into a 260+ page manuscript and gave me license to call myself a novelist. Whoa.
The point of this post is that every book begins with an idea and then dogged determination to finish it. Wresting your story in its clearest voice out of thousands of words takes work. I learned many things in the process of writing my novel. I will be sharing those gems with you in future posts, but let me end this one with . . .
- If you have an idea for a book, no one is going to get it written but you, so what are you waiting for?
- And if you are going to write a book, it is best to set aside large blocks of time where you can write with passion and keep your momentum at red-line. I did my best writing while I tuned out the rest of the world to focus on my characters and waited for more elements of the story to hit me upside the head.
- Learn as much as you can about self-editing to make your writing the best it can be before you show it to anyone. Taking the quantum leap of loving your words to handing them to someone to read (aka judge) is scary stuff. It is akin to baring your breasts to the world and wondering if the world is going to scoff. If your breasts aren’t your best feature, maybe you should show them your legs instead. After all, you have worked hard to get them in shape by all that time at the gym, right? Give your writing rigorous exercise before you flaunt it.