A Writerly Crisis of Faith

Apathy_Bear_by_MrsGeeI’m writing a new novel. This one is for an adult audience, not my usual genre which is young adult. This is new territory for me. I spent months doing the research, and now I’m well into the story.  I’ll probably spend another year completing it before I’ll shop it around to publishers. If it’s any good and with a little luck it will get published and then I’ll start another one. Such is the life of a novelist.

But there’s always that chance that I won’t find a publisher for this one. It’s an extremely competitive field. I might have missed the boat with the topic which may be passé by the time the story is complete. Am I wasting a couple years of my life working on something that will simply grow mouldy in a file cabinet drawer in my basement? Every day I wonder if my time would be better spent working in a soup kitchen, bringing meals to the elderly, volunteering in a hospital – all things that would help make my community a better place.

This is the dilemma faced by most writers. Hugely successful ones sign contracts before a project is written, but for most of us, writing is an act of faith. We enjoy the process, but we also hope that our words  will  find an audience to entertain, inform, or simply be thought-provoking. But there are days, like this one, when the words aren’t flowing and the passage of time stares me in the face and I wonder … is this the best use of the time?

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Love.com

loveThis is the title of an unpublished book I’ve written. It’s a short, tongue-in-cheek story of the perils of on-line dating. (I write from experience.) This is also my first stab at writing fiction for an adult audience.

I actually had fun writing Love.com. It wasn’t work at all, the story practically wrote itself and I smiled through the whole process. Perhaps I felt it was my chance to gently poke fun at some of the experiences I had when I briefly ventured down that perilous road.

I haven’t begun the submission process with this one yet, (I’m unfamiliar with the publishers of this genre) but I have shared it with a number of friends. Here is the latest review I received from a writer friend whose feedback I always trust.

“I loved, loved, loved this book. It is fast-paced and funny, with great characters, and a compelling story. I was charmed by it! I think you must send it out into the world …you might check some publishers of romance novels. There is such an authenticity to this manuscript. I thought it was sensational!” (Deborah Hodge)

Maybe there is an audience for this little story after all. Fingers crossed….

Photo credit: freepik.com

Book Gestation

dancing in the rain launchAn elephant carries her unborn baby for 2 years.

A donkey can carry their unborn young for 14 months.

Humans grow babies in nine months.

My latest story took 5 years from first tentative words on paper to actual book, so to  have it in my hands now… well, it is beyond satisfying. (And there are no late night feeds or dirty diapers to deal with either.)

I wasn’t writing for those full 5 years. In fact, I signed a contract for its publication 2 years ago, but it had to wait in line behind other books that came before it, and then it went through the editing and publishing process. There were many moments of numbing uncertainty, confidence failure and near bailing, but I believed in my characters, they are real people to me, and the relief that their story has been told is sweet beyond belief.

Huge gratitude to all those readers who wrote to me after reading Dancing Naked, asking to know what became of Kia, Brenna and Justin. We may never meet, but you planted the seed, and it grew into an entirely new story. Thank you, and please continue to give your favourite authors feedback. You have no idea how much it helps.

How do I become a writer?

Calving writingI’m often asked this during school visits and by aspiring writers. The answer is surprisingly straightforward.

1. Read (a lot)

2. Write (a lot)

There is no magic. It boils down to hard work. No one can teach you how to write a book. You learn by doing.

Author Brian Doyle (The Plover) sums it up nicely. He says, “If you wish to be a writer, write. There are people who talk about writing and then there are people who sit down and type. Writing is fast typing. Also, you must read like you are starving for ink. Read widely. Read everything… ”

He adds, “A piece is not finished until it is off your desk and onto an editor’s desk. Write hard and then edit yourself hard. Look carefully at your verbs to see if they can be energized… You do not need a sabbatical or a grant to write a book. Write a little bit every day. You will be surprised how deep the muck gets at the end of the year, but at that point you can cut out the dull parts, elevate your verbs…find the right title, and send it off to be published.”

I might add one more thing to Doyle’s wisdom…

3. Get feedback.

A writing critique group (or partner) is critical to help you find those dull parts. This shouldn’t be your romantic partner or best friend, they will spare your feelings and tell you that your work is brilliant. It’s not. Every writer needs constructive feedback and editing.

Writing classes can’t teach you how to write your book, but they can get you warmed up through the use of writing exercises and assignments so sign up for one if you can’t get started.

No two writers approach their work in the same manner. There is no right or wrong way. Some outline in detail. Some revise as they’re going along. Some just sit and write madly  until the first draft is complete, and then go back and revise.

Whichever approach works for you, just do it. Turn off the TV. Unplug (or set to vibrate) the phone, and put your fingers on the keys.

Oh, one more thing. Please invite me to the launch party.

 

Cartoon credit: Calvin and Hobbes