On Writing Seriously

What was I thinking, I ask myself? I’ve been a bookworm since the moment I could form a coherent sentence.  So we are talking decades and decades.  I’ve read thousands of books, good ones and bad ones.  I’ve been thrilled or bored or overwhelmed with each author’s sentences, their word pictures.  But now I’ve discovered that writing a book for publication is not easy.  A future editor can deal with grammar and sentence structure but the story, ah, that’s where the pedal hits the medal.  Do I have what it takes to take a reader on a magical carpet ride?

There are days where I cannot write The Story. It isn’t writer’s block.  It’s fear of boring future readers.  What if they don’t “get it”?  What if the characters lack substance?  What if I trip myself up on a technicality? I don’t want a New Hampshire State Trooper reading my book and saying, really, that would never happen.  I want him to say that he hopes that never happens or maybe he remembers when it did?

I’ve purchased books about how to write great story endings, how to outline a story, build great characters, etc. Each time I read a chapter I hit the fear wall.  What if this is too overwhelming a task?  And some days I write for myself.  I know and love the characters, their lives and problems.  Do I want them to die in the end or live happily ever after?  Do I want there to be a sequel?

Each time I buy a puppy with a goal of training it to be a future obedience competition dog. I always worry I’ll screw up its training but the dog almost always turns out to be a sweetheart and smart and willing.  The reason is because I do one tiny step each training session and build on each day’s accomplishments.  But then I’ve been doing this for forty years.  Writing a four hundred page book should be the same concept as dog training, right?  I should build on one page’s events and characters the first day and then build on that page to go on to the next chapter.  It sounds so easy.

I have made a decision on which self-publishing company that I’ll use, AuthorHouse. They have in-house editors.  A friend who became a multi-book author used that company and raved about their services.  Before I send off my final draft I want to make sure my “baby” is done to the point where I feel confident of its reception.  But would an editor give a bad review of the story line or do they only correct spelling and grammar?  There is so much to learn.

One book I’ve purchased that has been helpful is, Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot by Jane K. Cleland. I found it in the library and kept renewing it over and over to the point that I finally ordered it from Amazon.  It has helped me to focus and analyze several key factors, including my genre, the characters and so much more.  What were the odds that I’d find this book at just the right time?  What a gem for a hopeful author like me.

I’m characterizing my story as a “romance suspense” novel.

I’ve discovered that character’s names are important.  I have changed their names several times because each time I wrote the old name I shuddered. The main character has a very unusual name, Cydney, because her dad wanted a boy whom he of course would have been named Sidney.  So right away she has to deal with almost everyone commenting about her name.  Cindy?  Sidney? Another character has something odd about him which results in the same type of comments that Cydney endures.

No novel I’d write would be without animals, since they can tie in many characters easily.

No novel would be complete without a character changing over time, growing and learning. In some cases, as in real life, some people never learn and become stagnant in life.

There are some location details that need more authenticity. So, darn, I’ll need to take a trip back to New England next spring where I’ll have to interview strangers, most likely police officers.  I worked in Law Enforcement for five years and won’t feel totally out of my element when I walk into the state police barracks and ask bizarre questions.  I’m anxious about that day but thinking the trip to New Hampshire will be a story in itself.  After all, they will be the main characters and location for a romance suspense novel.  That should peak their interest enough for a thirty minute interview, right?

Anyhow, enough procrastinating and time to start another chapter.  Don’t I sound focused and driven?  Only if I don’t let the fingers of fear keep me from writing.

EDIT:  Since writing this blog entry the other day I’ve been inspired by the twists and turns that the story has taken.  I’m writing early in the morning before I start my day.  But today I got caught up in an idea and I wrote several chapters; house and yard work be damned.  Writing is so much fun.

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