author control, creating a world, Ideas for a New Story, personalize, Uncategorized, Voice, Writing

The book that only you can write

The first book I envied was Bel Kaufman‘s Up the DownKaufman'sbook. Staircase. It should have been my book! I knew what it was to cherish language and literature. Like Kaufman’s main character, I was naive enough to think I could instill an appreciation for truth and beauty in my teenage students. My days often felt insane. Why didn’t I put all that together?

Many answers come to mind, but this one tops the list: I didn’t find anything funny about my job. But I loved that book.

For good or bad, I have to write the book that I can write. But how about this: is there a book that can only be written by me?

I think so. And one for you, too, even if you’ve never written anything.

It doesn’t have to be the story of your life or a memoir of a significant time. On a book that only you can write, you’ll stamp not just the drive of your DNA, but ideas and sensory impressions of your lifetime. Doesn’t matter whether you tell the truth as you remember it or create fictional characters and story.

How do you find the book that only you can write?

For a start, don’t imitate. Strive for honest expression. Too many writers try to write the book they love to read and end up with sad copies. Whether you’re writing romance or science fiction, an honest story will come from your understanding and way of seeing. That doesn’t mean you’ll write about yourself. But if you’re honest, readers will know your heart.

What can’t you forget? What do you see? What do you hear? What’s good, what’s evil, what’s just?  Your lifetime impressions lie waiting to be remastered in the book that only you can write.

Amazon, drafting, historical fiction, Ideas for a New Story, main characters, revising, sequel, Starting a New Story, The Girl on the Mountain, Writing

Writing from scratch

Writing from scratch is harder than cooking from scratch, unless you’re copying someone else’s recipe. When you write from scratch, you must concoct the ingredients, too.

The first ingredient of The Girl on the Mountain grew from my dream about a poor child huddled in bushes at the door of a privileged home. An open carriage stopped at the door and a man pulled his children roughly to the ground. One child fell, and the small girl rushed from hiding to help her. The story, I thought when I woke up, might be about the poor girl and the privileged children who’d just lost their mother.

I pursued that idea, looked at pictures of carriages, imagined scenes for the child, created her history, and considered where and when the story might take place.  Eventually everything changed: I didn’t use the bush scene, reduced the children and their father to minor characters, made the poor girl a lot older, and forgot about the carriage.

Before reaching that point, I’d recorded even the least promising idea in my messy spiral notebook and the better-organized OneNote Notebook, part of Microsoft Office, sometimes waking at night and scribbling a note in the dark.

I thought a lot about the main character and possible bumps in her road, and tested ideas in brief scenes.  In a OneNote section labeled “Problems,” I created a page of “Character Problems” and one of “Author Problems.”  Author Problems included things like “Why would she be in that place at that time?”

My OneNote research section grew to 49 pages. There I also pasted pictures, thanks to Internet, of period features like decorative iron gates and primitive washing machines, and copied words to a Fanny Crosby hymn and quotes from Longfellow’s Evangeline.  I did not use most of my research, including descriptions of glove-making and instructions for cleaning a slop jar.  Images from the period were very helpful. One of my characters reacts to this beautiful engraving from an old edition of Evangeline, depicting Acadians forced from their homeland:

Researching more than I needed for the story made me comfortable with the culture of a logging town in 1899 and aware of influences on my characters, including what they read.

My current project continues the story of Wanda and Will from The Girl on the Mountain, so I’m not writing this one completely from scratch.#

Ideas for a New Story, Starting a New Story, Writing

Overcoming the Story Blues

I hate this.

Starting a new story is as conflicting as having a new baby with the older one crying for attention.  But worse:  my story offspring are not yet equally loved.  I have to force myself to ignore the older and nurture the new. 

There are a few good side effects.  I’m not obsessed with taking care of it. I sleep better.  I’m diligently reading, planning, writing–but find time to do other things.

It’s a good thing our bodies take care of the first nine months of creating a baby.  If my mind had to develop a baby, I’d probably forget where I left it.

To shock me into a relationship with this story, I’ve put the first chapter up for critique. We’ll see if readers stimulate any maternal instincts and if the story wants to breathe.  This is risky.  The story (The Legacy of Lucie Bosell) should be available March 28 on critiquecircle.com unless I come to my senses and pull it back to the womb.

Good idea?  Bad idea?  Death wish?

What do you know about the story blues?