Thursday, March 19, 2015

Saying Things Out Loud

When I was an early teen, I began saying my fears out loud, at night in my bed, and I found that it took much of their power away. Now there is something else I want to say out loud. This time not to take anything away from it, but to commit to it and give it more life.

I am writing a book.

I was thinking the other day about what I like about Gretchen Rubin's newsletters, and it's experiencing the process of her writing. She shares about researching her book, editing, how it goes to press, what helps it sell, and so on. Most of these "how a book gets published" tidbits are included because of blatant and confessed self-promotion, but she is honest, so I don't mind. I find the whole process fascinating. One of my favorite quotes from her was something like, "I've finally chosen a title for my book (or maybe it was the jacket). If you don't like it, don't tell me."

Anyway, I wondered if perhaps anyone out there might like to follow along with me as I start out with high hopes. And if not, then I would still like to record some things for myself. I do dream of becoming a well-known writer, and wouldn't it be fun if fans of my work (wishful thinking) could look back at how I wrote their new favorite book. I write these things partly tongue in cheek, and partly serious. Please forgive my vanity and here it goes.

An interview with myself:

1) When do you write?

During my daughter's naptime and after both my kids' bedtimes.

2) Best writing advice you've heard?

Stop writing when you know exactly what you want to write next. It's easier to pick it up the next day. (My paraphrase) When I read this it surprised me because I like to write until I finish, but the more I worked on my story, I realized how true this is.

3) How is it coming?

Slow. I wrote the first 40k words pretty quickly, in maybe a month, but when I reread it, I realized that it was terrible. I tried to write other stories with the same characters, but I just couldn't make it work. So I gave up for a few months. But all along things were percolating in my brain, and I recently went back to my first draft. I sketched an outline of my new ideas, weaving two storylines together to make things more interesting, and I am now doing a combination of editing and new writing. I have to rewrite the beginning of my story to fit in the new pieces, but I'm excited about this new direction.

4) Biggest fear?

So many fears, so little time. Ha. Mostly it's a variation of two themes, I can't write or what I've written is awful. I keep thinking about something Stephen King said, "________ is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. ________ is about how important it is to have a boyfriend." Although I admire certain things about both sets of work, I would like to be in the first category. I want my story to have depth and my characters to be flawed and struggling. I have this vision in my head, but I'm not sure I'll get there. I feel like my skills aren't currently up to the task. And then there's always the classic fear, "Does the world really need another book anyway?" 

5) Biggest surprise?

Just how much work editing that many pages is. I find it exhausting to edit. Once I get it to the point where I'm not longer embarrassed by it, I will be happy to hand it over to someone else to work on for awhile. I think the potential is there, but a manuscript is an unwieldy thing. I had no idea. No wonder people take years to write a book.

6) Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I've been jotting story ideas down in a notebook since 2007 and even fragments of stories. Often what pops into my head is a few pieces of dialogue and then I imagine who would say it and what their story is. But one day, a little less than a year ago, a six word sentence popped into my head as I walked out of my bathroom into my bedroom, preoccupied with the daily life of young kids. I jotted it down, and somehow I just knew that it was the right first sentence for my novel and that I was ready to start writing it. Who knows if that sentence will end up first or not, especially if I ever get to the professional editing stage, but it gave me the struggle of my main character precisely.

7) So what's the plan?

I want to write many books, beginning with this one and then branching out to other types of writing such as essays, poetry, memoir, and so on. My role model in this is Madeleine L'Engle's body of work. I have the bulk of Book 1 written and hope to have it ready for an outside editor (family or friend) by late summer, and I have the beginning idea for Book 2. My highest hope is that Book 1 will be a success, and if so, I can't imagine trying to write Book 2 under all that pressure and expectation. My creative process is very loose and I need a lot of time to think and play around. Because of this, I want to have the first three books in my series written and decently edited before I even start to think about looking for a publisher.

8) What kind of novel is it?

Ah, that I am not telling. Not yet.

9) What if you never get published?

I've thought about this. When I realized how bad my first draft was, I almost gave up permanently. I wasn't sure I had it in me to get my story to where I imagined it being. But something my mom said encouraged me to keep trying. My grandmother wrote two books, one is a chicken novel and the other is a memoir about learning to fly, and my mother told me that they are priceless to her. My mom said that even if I'm never successful out in the wide world, what I've written will matter to my family. A book I read, Cradles of Eminence, suggested to me the idea that sometimes dreams are cumulative in families, passed from generation to generation but not fully realized until some future child. My maternal grandfather also wrote a book, but after working on it for six months he burned his manuscript and wrote only poetry after that. Both my mom and I wished he hadn't destroyed it, although I now understand better his feelings of frustration. Perhaps it is my family's time to finally get published, and if not, my stories may live on to encourage the next generation to try. I've already told pieces of my story to my five year old son, especially when I'm trying to work out the story line, and he periodically asks me to tell him more, so in a small way, I've already succeeded.


  1. Good for you! It takes a certain courage to say, out loud, just how high your dreams go. I wish you the very best of luck.

    Have you encountered Louise Penny? She writes though provoking mystery novels. I've only read the first (wait on her second from the library) but my mom loves her, especially her "becoming a writer" story and her Facebook posts about the writing process. You might find some inspiration:

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, it means a lot. I'll look Louise Penny up, I always love finding a new author to read.