The feeling came rushing back

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Last year, I made the courageous decision to let two of the guests at the lodge read the first three chapters of my novel.  It was a large hurdle for me to jump, to trust my writing enough let them read it and, as I sat waiting to hear back from them, I was concerned that their critique may destroy the hope I had for my book.  I was dead wrong and I wrote about it here.

That same couple checked back into the lodge yesterday for their annual “Shammy” vacation.  I was delighted to see them again and we embraced like we have known each other for decades.  We had been corresponding by email over the winter and they were two of the people at the top of my list to share my news once I had finished writing the book.

As she began to leaf through the 8 1/2 by 11 pages, I watched her brow furrow.  She agreed with the changes that I had made in red ink but I sensed there was an underlying urge in her to be wielding the same red pen she had used last year.  Instead, she set the pages down on her lap and seemed so overjoyed that I had finished my work in progress.  She was thrilled and her joy seeped into me.  I was elated.  The excitement I had felt after finishing the writing now came flooding back and the two of us acted like we had just won the lottery.

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I have been dutifully editing my novel for egregious grammatical oversights as well as making the story flow as well as it should so the reader is not lost at the beginning of any of the chapters.  I plan to spend all of my free time over the next week finishing the revisions and beginning the hunt for an agent.  Game on!

A wish to build a dream on

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After successfully losing hours of sleep, multiple strands of hair and a decent portion of my sanity, I have completely read through my novel for the first time.  This first run-through was to catch any glaring grammatical issues that I would have been humiliated by had someone else seen them before I had.  Along the way, I did make some notes about slight plot restructuring and that is what the second reading will accomplish.

The romantic portion of writing a book seems to be a tiny pinpoint of light in my not-so-distant past.  The business of writing a book has taken center stage and the formidable task of marketing a book is waiting in the wings, making faces at me and sticking out its tongue.

I have been told many times and in many ways that for every one author who has the good fortune of being published, there are at least 10,000 writers whose novels will never be seen in print unless they choose to self-publish.  I want to exhaust every effort in traditional publishing before I entertain the thought of self-publishing.  Call me a bleeding heart, a romantic, a crazy…..whatever adjective you choose, my wish is to follow the path of the many authors I have read and followed for decades.  Their sacrifice, their blood, their sweat and their toil have carved a path that I want to follow.

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I want the criticism (I think), I want the rewrites (I hope), I want to inhabit my space on the arc of the learning curve and I want to have my book published in the way in which I have always dreamed.  Perhaps my dream is lofty but I am willing to follow the bread crumbs to their inevitable conclusion, whether that outcome favors me or not.

At the end of this journey, at least I can say I followed the culmination of my devotion to writing and gave it everything I had.  In no way have I conceded my efforts to appease the writing Gods.  I can only hope that, after my constant effort, the writing world has something it would like to give back to me.  Fingers crossed.

 

 

 

 

 

The stages of writing a book

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I am writing a book.  There, I’ve said it.  I’m out.   Although the book is not quite finished, I have stopped to reflect on the different stages of writing a fiction novel.

The first stage, for me,  was definitely the romantic stage.  Writing a book has an allure about it.  There is something truly whimsical about imagining yourself dancing in a meadow with a plethora of phrases spilling from your brain.  Each of those phrases floats through the air and settles onto fluffy white clouds until you are able to collect them all and put them to paper.

The second stage is certainly more realistic than the first.  This stage for me was jotting down the plot twists that I wanted in my story but not knowing where they would be presented.  I also had to decide whether I wanted to write a full outline and follow it or if I simply wanted the characters to tell their story as they saw fit.  There are many places in my life where structure and organization are crucial but creating a story is not one of those places so the characters were able to share their voices without my framework.

The third stage was fantastic.  Once I had the basic premise in my head, I just sat down and wrote.  Some days were better than others but I spent a significant amount of time each day seeing how much further I could delve into the story and where it would lead me.  The best part about the third stage was getting excited when I came up with a new plot twist and  having those ideas create even more scenarios that I had never thought of before.  This stage was the ‘perpetual high’ stage.

I am now in the fourth stage, which is the panic stage.  I am so close to finishing the book and now I am second guessing everything I have written.  Are my characters deficient in some way?  Does the story line flow properly?  Is there enough meat in the story to keep readers interested?  Am I even going to have readers?   The list goes on….

I am hoping that there is a bright light at the end of this arduous tunnel when I gain back a little more self-confidence and I can just pat myself on the back and say, ‘you finished your book’.  That in itself will be a monumental occasion.

I already have the sequel planned and seemingly I am willing to put myself through these phases all over again.  They must make some sort of pill for this……

Oh, the places I’ll go

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I am in the middle of a steep learning curve.  I have never written anything longer than a 3,500 word short story so I should have expected a few pitfalls when I decided to pursue my dream of writing a book, or two or three.   But I was committed to give it one hundred percent and see where the journey led me.  I am well on my way to achieving 82,000 (ish) words for a novel-length book and only have 17,000 more to go!

I have been amazed by the process.  I have a journal I keep at my side to remind me of what has happened in each paragraph so the story will not seem disjointed or confusing.  I have done my best, pre-editing, to make sure the plot line flows well and ties in all the loose ends.  I’m sure I have missed a few small details throughout the process but I’m new at this so I’m giving myself ample opportunities to go back and alter the things that don’t work.  I have noticed that my characters have taken on a life of their own, causing me to go back and change a few details of their past but so far I feel blessed to have made it this far.

My writing has mainly been directed by the characters.  I had a simple outline of where I wanted the book to go but their personalities have taken control of the wheel and taken me in a few directions I hadn’t thought of.  On Friday, I wrote a paragraph and then I couldn’t write any more.  Something was off.  I didn’t know it was wrong when I wrote it, but that one paragraph derailed my train of thought.  I stared at that page as the characters sat idly by waiting for me to send them in a direction, any direction, but I was stuck.

I read that last paragraph many times and it eventually dawned on me to remove the last sentence.  As soon as that freeway in my brain cleared of the congestion, the traffic of words started to flow and sped off down the road.  I now understand how writer’s can figuratively paint themselves into a corner.  That one line was the difference between writing and staring at my walls.

Persistence is the key.  I have many lines and paragraphs that I have omitted from the book.  They are not gone but merely stored on a different page until I know those ideas are not meant for this book.  I have no idea where I will end up, but, oh, the places I’ll go on my journey to get there.

 

Do more of what makes you happy

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The weekend had arrived and I had my to-do list all mapped out.  Saturday would be the day of chores since Sunday was going to be our last “chop fest” of the season for the food bank and I would be too busy shopping for groceries, making labels and prepping the kitchen.

As luck would have it, Saturday turned into a spectacular day of weather.  In the cooler hours of the morning, I had my hair cut, took my garbage to the dump and ran my errands in town.   I arrived home knowing that my list of chores had not been completed but when I saw the sun shining on my deck, my list of chores suddenly changed, as did my outfit.  I turned off my heat, opened all my windows, donned some shorts and a t-shirt and went outside to bask in the sun for as long as I could.  As fate would have it, my neighbors chose to embrace the day as well and burn everything they wanted to dispose of and the smoke penetrated every ounce of air I was trying to breathe.  My dog and I quickly made our way indoors and wistfully closed the windows.

I stood inside, my head going back and forth from my vacuum to my laptop and I surreptitiously neglected my remaining chores.  I opened my laptop and sat down to write what would end up being over three thousand words for my book.  My dog was still shedding, my carpet looked like my dog had exploded, more dust had settled on every surface in my home and my dishes were still waiting to be washed but I didn’t care.  I deferred the menial tasks to concentrate more on the things that truly make me happy.

My vacuum will still be in the same place on Monday.  My dog will still be shedding and the dust particles will still be dancing in the light that filters through my windows.  But just maybe, those words that flowed through me today would not have waited for me until Sunday or Monday.

Do more of what makes you happy and do it often.  Life is much too short to spend it doing things that don’t truly inspire you and make you feel like you are living your best life.  I spent a great deal of my past living for others and now it is time to put aside the things that can wait and focus on the things that consume my thoughts.

Time is running out

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I have been blessed over the last six months.  Not only have I been able to work full-time at a job I enjoy, I have been able to focus the substantial increase of my spare time into the things that I am truly passionate about.

I have always been a creative person.  As a child, arts and crafts were my go-to hobby and when I reached the age of eleven I was introduced to the art of writing.  My grade six teacher urged us to express ourselves in ways that I had never thought about and from that moment, I was hooked.  I began to write poetry and short stories.  I was so addicted to words that I got my library card and became a voracious reader.

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I was also introduced to cooking at an early age and, under the tutelage of my dad, learned to create meals that did not come from a recipe.  I learned to experiment with flavors and was able to create some impressive dinners with simple items found in any pantry.  And I made a point to commit his cooking faux pas to memory – NEVER make scrambled eggs with Egg Nog!

I have been able to take all of my spare moments over the last few months and really focus on the things I love – cooking and writing.  This past weekend, I added three thousand more words to my novel-in-progress and spent some time in my own kitchen creating some fantastic and creative soups for myself and my family.  The time is slowly running out for me to have the time to focus on the wants instead of the needs.  Soon the resort will be back in full swing and my spare time will be a dim memory of my past.

My email address is a glaring reminder of how I will spend my remaining days and nights before my world changes – “carpe diem – seize the day”.

Being written up for insubordination

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The human brain never ceases to amaze me.  Out of a simple idea that inspired my mind many years ago, I have recently penned, in the short span of three weeks, what could easily amount to half a novel.  I have had moments when the words just seem to flow out of a long-buried well of ideas and I feel like the vessel being used to convey someone else’s words.

I have been roused in the wee hours by the voices of my characters, longing to continue our journey and last night was no different.  But once I was awake, my mind simply spun in circles and my thoughts had nothing to do with the book.

If I could calculate how many thoughts went through my brain from 2:00 am to 4:30 am, the number would be astronomical.  I had mentally cleaned out my car to get ready for my new car, planned my entire week at work, organized five weekends of volunteers for my food bank project, put together my next shopping list, and quite possibly have solved world hunger.  My neurons were firing on more cylinders than I even have in my head.  After three hours of rapid cranial activity, I finally drifted back to sleep and woke this morning to continue writing.

That sound of crickets was all I got.  I had nothing on my mind.  It was mutiny.  There were no whispers from the characters, no idle nudges from them asking me to go in the direction they saw fit….nothing.  I couldn’t even formulate a thought about my day-to-day life.  It was like my cerebrum had decided to enjoy the last day of March break and left me behind.

Only now am I starting to regain the mental aptitude to be able to string together these sentences.  The characters are still nowhere to be found so the book remains idle.  I now truly understand the phrase ‘feast or famine’ and can only hope they will be back tomorrow and ready to get back to work.  We have a book to finish.