The Birth of a Writer...
Tell us Abby, why did you write a book? Were you an English Lit major in college? No. I graduated with a degree in Sociology.
Has it always been your dream to be an author? Not exactly. I was a social worker and stay-at-home-mom before this.
Have you ever written anything before? Um, a couple plays in high school. A blog when I was in my thirties but, it never had any followers. Other than my mom!
So one morning, you just woke up and said, "I think I'll be an author today?" Yep, on a sunny afternoon in June, I sat down at my keyboard and 115,000 words later, voila! I had me one tee-rific novel.
No, no, no. Of course, it didn't go down like that! The truth is, I've had quite a few ideas for novels over the years. A dozen or so interesting starts to stories. But most of them never amounted to anything more than chicken scratch on napkins in coffee shops. And anytime I did attempt to put my stories into words, the glorious characters and fascinating plotlines running around in my head never seemed to translate well to the page...in the first draft. And I thought, if I was a bonafide writer, there wouldn't need to be more than one draft...wait, would there be?
Do the likes of C.S. Lewis, Douglas Addams and Suzanne Collins actually have to write multiple drafts?
For years, I operated under the misconception that good writing just poured from true writers. For the Madeleine L'Engles and Ray Bradburys of the world, well-ordered words simply gushed from them and everything was fabulous in the first draft. Sure, their chapters might need a little polishing and a pass from a good copy editor, but real writers immediately strike gold when they place fingers on the keyboard or their pens to paper.
Wait, don't they?
Since I had this a magical view of writing and was incapable of stringing words together in a deliciously wonderful way the first go-round, I decided long ago, I wasn't a writer.
Then how did the story for your novel go from drowning in those falsehoods to a finished novel? I'm so glad you asked, Ms. Imaginary Interviewer! About three years ago, yet another idea for a novel hit me. A sci-fi story, set in another dimension. The seeds for "Tenderfoot" and the entire Enova series, sprouted in my wee little brain and I really, really, really loved the concept. More than any of my story ideas before, it consumed me. The main characters came to life and kept talking at me, saying incredibly witty things, until I was convinced had to write their story. I owed it to them!
So, for my new imaginary friends, Linnea, Sammy, Logan and Daisy, I wrote the first few chapters...and it certainly wasn't gold. But, I kept going because it felt good to get my ideas out and to hear my characters speak. I was enjoying myself. However, I quickly became discouraged when the fantastic adventure in my head wasn't magically appearing on the page. I almost gave up, but before I did...
I wondered what God could do with my project if I gave it to Him. The Bible says, "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans." Proverbs 16:3. So I did it. I committed the Enova series to Him. Sounds kinda hokey, I know. But, that’s the truth. It’s really what I did.
And that's how the writer in me was born.
The end? No, the beginning!
After I gave my work to the Lord, my fingers burned up the keyboard and perfect prose flowed effortlessly. The first draft was miraculous and ready for publication. Um, NOT! However, I believe God has been faithful in “establishing” my plans. And practiced and practiced and...you get it.
Learning how to write fiction well has been work. Hard work, but incredibly rewarding! And I'm not even published yet.
Tell us about the "hard work", what have you done? First, I devoured books and articles on the craft of writing and found out that writing is something you can actually work at to improve. Lo and behold! There are tools, tricks of the trade, concrete ways to craft and construct sentences to make a story shine. I found out writing is not based on pure talent alone. That one can learn, practice and get better at it. This was revolutionary to me...I know, I sound like an idiot. But I'm not afraid to speak my ignorance, it's the first step to learning, right?
Next was the super hard work, I began to apply what I was learning. Slowly, my work became more readable. For example, when I changed from "passive voice" to "active voice" or began to utilize "deep POV", my story became accessible to the reader. I hadn't struck gold yet, but I could see veins of yellow in the lumps of rock. Holy smokes! Maybe I can grow up to be a writer after all.
For three years, I marched forward alone. Armed with a beginner's knowledge of the craft, I soldiered on, busting out over 60,000 words. But I needed fresh eyes on my manuscript, to give me an outsiders opinion. I thought I was improving, but was I hitting the mark? I didn't know. I needed...feedback. And that's when I was introduced to the idea of a "Critique Group". With the help of like-minded peers my writing skills really took off! I will discuss my adventures in being a part of a Critique Group in my next post...