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……

Do you have something in a Birkenstock?

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Fairy tales miss the mark when it comes to really telling a story.  As I child, I would rush through the illustrated pages to get to the part when the Prince planted that life-renewing kiss on the Princess’ lips or the little glass slipper was delicately placed on the foot of Cinderella and they found their happily ever after.

glass slipper

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At that young age I didn’t realize that the true depth of that fable should have been in the whole story and not just the ending.  Along the way the malleable minds of youth should have been introduced to the somewhat imperfect side of fairy tales to prepare us a little more for reality.  I’m all for happy endings.  I know many couples who have found theirs.  But I also know many people who have kissed a lot of frogs and are still waiting for that Disney-worthy moment before the curtain closes.

What we missed as children was the real meat of the relationships in those fairy tales.  Nothing in those woven myths gave us cause to concern ourselves with what happens after the shoe fits.  In the animated versions of those fictional accounts, the music comes to its crescendo and we are left surfing on the tsunami of perfect love.   But what if Sleeping Beauty just wanted another eight hours of sleep before she stepped back into a life she was trying to avoid?   What if Cinderella didn’t want the shoe to fit anymore but was too afraid to speak up?

We have to remember there are a lot of other shoes out there.  Just because that glass slipper fit like a glove doesn’t mean we should feel obligated to wear it and put ourselves through a great deal of discomfort in the process.  Sure, we’ve all heard the saying “if the shoe fits” but if the shoe does fit and you don’t like it, don’t be afraid to look for another shoe.

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.

 

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”.

Time in a bottle

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slider-time-in-a-bottle

Is my hourglass broken?

Are the grains of sand in my time capsule

so infinitesimally small

that time goes faster than it should?

Most days, time is irrelevant.

But when those hours are important,

when those minutes have meaning

and those seconds truly count,

time races by,

turning the moments that we relish

into time we are made to reflect,

turning the present

quickly into the past.

But as those moments pass by,

as those seconds hastily morph into hours,

I can only smile,

knowing that those hours that passed so swiftly

were well worth the short time

that I got to enjoy them.

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Adults say the darndest things

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I had it made as a kid.  My parents were co-owners of a coin laundry, a bakery and then a Sub shop that also served ice cream.  There were a few arcade games in the sub shop and Defender and Asteroids ate many of the quarters that were once my allowance.  I was the living version of a kid in a candy store.

My dad also sold real estate during the same time period, so to say he had many irons in the fire is a gross understatement.  His office was located conveniently up the street from the sub shop so I would bounce back and forth from each business and soon became a runner for the agent’s ice cream requests.  I will never forget Ken Robinson.  He was in his seventies, had white hair like Santa Claus and a severe penchant for mint chocolate chip ice cream.  He and I became quick friends once I learned that he shared the same love for that minty, chocolate deliciousness as I did.

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Every day, Ken would hand me his money and I would gladly run down the street to retrieve his afternoon treat.  I ran in to the office one hot summer day to find Ken’s desk unattended.  I asked the secretary where he was and she could not look me in the eye.  Instead, I was told to talk to my father.  Ken had died of a heart attack the night before.  I was devastated.  Ken had been the first person I had known who had died.  After many days of tears and avoiding the office, I finally gathered the courage to go back.  Carl was there with his ill-fitting sport coat and bad seventies mustache.  I will never forget how nonchalant he was when he spoke to the 11-year old me and said, “You musta killed him with all that mint chocolate chip ice cream.”

I carried that burden with me to Ken’s funeral and for many years after.   We went to the service as a family and I can still remember the dress I wore.  We paid our respects to his family and approached his open casket.  I was terrified that Ken’s wax-like body was going to sit upright, point at me at scream, “you did this to me”.   I could barely breathe.

Now, as an adult, I still have difficulties at open-casket funerals.  The logical side of my brain assures me that a deceased body cannot move, but the young girl and the writer in me still have that nagging doubt.

I can only hope that Carl eventually outgrew his horrendous mustache (and Herb Tarlek wardrobe) and learned to think before he spewed any further erroneous judgement on young, impressionable minds.  Either that or he has had ten children and countless grandchildren of his own and Karma has finally paid him a visit!

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