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.

 

 

 

 

 

What you leave behind

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Everyone wants to make their mark on the world, to leave something behind so they will be remembered.  For me, that mark is made with words.  This blog will live on in cyber space long after I am gone and I can only hope that some of the phrases that I have strung together will leave an indelible imprint, not only on the internet but, in the memories of those people who took the time to read my posts.

I have taken it one step further and just completed writing my first novel, hopefully the first of many.  This chain of ideas, this woven tale of characters and plot lines, has a piece of my soul buried in its structure.  It has my emotion and my sense of humor represented by the cast, human or canine.   It is stippled with moments of my life that had a lasting impact on me whether they were humorous or traumatic.

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My words are my legacy.  They are the things I choose to leave behind, the things I want people to remember about me.  Besides my relationships with family and friends, words are the things that I gave my heart to expecting nothing in return.

We all make choices every day of our lives.  The hardest choices are sometimes the most meaningful and the most rewarding.  If you had to make a choice, what will you leave behind?

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Mortar envy

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From the moment the sky scraper was built, it was jealous.  The small church paled in comparison to its size and newness, but somehow the recently built monstrosity knew it had none of the character and charm that this relic had.

A myriad number of people came and went each day through its newly built foyer and, although the monolith felt important, the new tower knew it could not compare to the importance of the little church that it shadowed.

Each day, the looming fortress would watch people enter and leave the hallowed sanctuary.  Their emotions were strong and were easily expressed.  Family and friends held hands, locked arms, shared their joy or comforted each other as they entered and left the century-old building, tears staining their cheeks after a funeral or smiles etched into their faces following a wedding or christening. The more the new fortress watched the feelings and sentiment shared by the patrons of the old building, the more its resentment grew.

“St. Paul’s Chapel, NYC” by Amy Light

The tower watched the expressionless faces of the people entering through its revolving door.  Most had digital devices in their hands and not one person acknowledged any of the other people in the building, lost in their sad world of technology.  The building paid attention to the people in each of its offices, noting their lack of enthusiasm and utter disdain for their existence.

The cafeteria was the same.  The only noise that was heard within the four walls of the dining hall were the sounds of the cash register and the din from the kitchen as the cooks continued to prepare the lunch items for the day.  Nobody smiled.  Nobody had even the smallest conversation.  Ear plugs were attached to mobile devices so each person could tune out the world around them.

The fire started in the furnace room long after everyone had left for the day.  The fortress could feel the heat from the fire and was satisfied that the slow burn would not be detected.  It had systematically dismantled all of its alarms and fire suppression systems so the alarm company and the fire department would not be alerted until it was too late.

The flames turned into an inferno and windows began to break as the heat became unbearable.  Smoke billowed through the shattered glass and the building breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it would no longer have to bear witness to the emotion the church was blessed to experience.

The final explosion was small in comparison to the fire.  Chunks of concrete were launched in all directions and a few small pieces came to rest at the back of the church.  The remainder of the structure fell to the ground leaving behind the metal carcass.

In the weeks that followed, those few small pieces watched as the clean up began.  The debris was taken away and the skeleton of the building was broken down and removed.  From their vantage point, the concrete remnants breathed a sigh of relief as they were left untouched to enjoy the rest of their existence as part of the church that they had admired for so many years.

Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press Writing Challenge

 

 

 

The writer within

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‘There is something wonderful in feeling the presence of the writer within you, of something wilful that seems to have a plan’ … George Saunders

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Until I began writing my blog, I had never actually called myself a writer.  I dabbled in poetry as a child and thrived in it as a teen, I began to write short stories in my early twenties and thirties but calling myself a writer felt like a lie.  A few of my poems were published many years ago but that moderate success never brought with it the title of ‘writer’.

 Blogging opened up a narrow passage for me that eventually widened into an avenue.  The more I blogged, the more I found my voice.  And the more I found my voice, the more confident I felt about my words.  I had to master that voice before I could ever be convinced that calling myself a writer was even close to being accurate.

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Now my writing avenue has blossomed into a two-lane highway.  I am drawn to that macadam and travel the road with more confidence than I ever have.  The voice that I hear in the back of my head telling me I can write IS wilful and does seem to have a plan.  The book that I had envisioned years ago, the one that sat lifeless in the obscured corners of my brain, now seems to be writing itself and using me as a vehicle to record its story and the nuances of its characters.

Feeling that writer within me come to life and feast on words is a feeling I can only liken to euphoria.   There is something deeply intoxicating about being able to lose yourself for hours and create four thousand words of text that seem exciting and suspenseful.  I can only hope that when I finish writing the book someone else will share my passion for the story and help me promote myself from the title of writer to published author.