Tales of a First-Time Novelist

“Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions.” – Paulo Coelho

I am awake at 3:00 a.m. to write this blog post. Why? Well…see the quote above. It’s my “human condition.” I can’t help it. I have something I want to share.

As some of you may know, I am in the process of writing my first novel. The idea first popped into my mind over a year ago, and it has taken me this long to crank out the first nine chapters. Why? Heck, I don’t know. I’m a writer. Writing is my thing. It’s what I do. But writing fiction?  Whoa. As they say in Oz, that’s a horse of a different color! 7dbbefcc1a588d2c161143a661a1019d

Fiction is hard for me. It engages imagination. And that’s something that I think I might still be somewhat lacking in. Now, seeing and capturing reality on the other hand?  Oh yeah, I got that one down pat.  There are so many real things out there that we walk past every day that beg for their stories to be told. These are the things that capture me and won’t let go until I obey their commands and immortalize them onto a computer screen. Thus, this blog you’re reading. (My first published work, Lessons Abound is exactly that as well – a collection of essays that stem from everyday life events.)

But fiction?  Well, fiction doesn’t quite work that way, as I’m learning. There are no reminders. No smorgasbord of random, everyday events. Nope. You have to choose one story line and stick to it. And where does that storyline have to come from?

Sigh.

Me.

That’s it. Just little ole me.

I have to pull all of this stuff out of my head. And this is quite new for me. While I definitely still draw inspiration from the life around me, most of what I’m writing in my fiction novel has to be drawn from the recesses of my own mind. I’ve recently shared the first nine chapters of my novel with a few willing, and extremely helpful readers. While I’m waiting on feedback, some of the early thoughts that have trickled in have had this somewhat common theme to them:

“Is your story autobiographical?”

Ha. Oops.

So, no. The story is not autobiographical. But I’m a nonfiction writer, man. This fiction stuff is hard. While I’m playing around with my imagination for the first time, I’m having a teensy bit of trouble letting go of reality in order to do so. So I had to find a compromise. I’m making these characters into people I know by making them all pieces of me.  Does that make sense? In order to write a story that people are going to believe, as the author I need to know these characters. I need to know their surroundings, their upbringing, their hopes, their dreams, their fears. I need to know what makes them tick. And right now, while I’m still trying out my fiction sea legs, I’m going to keep one tiny little foot anchored on the shore of reality. I’m giving these characters lives and personalities that I know and understand. Heck, even the “bad” guys in the story are going to possess some of my not-so-endearing qualities. They almost have to. They come from me, right? You-only-learn-to-beIs this what all authors do?

I don’t know. But I’d be willing to bet maybe so. Especially in the beginning. Maybe as fiction becomes more second nature to me, I’ll learn to loosen that grip on a reality just a bit more and let my imagination take over the reigns. For now, though, yes; you’re going to see pieces of me in this writing. Some of them may be things you already know. Some of them may surprise you. But trust me – while you may see me in this story, the events are still 100% made up.

Clear as mud? Well, good. Glad we got that settled.

I’m so grateful for the brave souls who have dedicated their time and energy to reading the first draft of my first nine chapters. Writing is a very lonely process.  I sit at a computer screen night after night and do this alone. Some nights a few pages will flow out. Some nights I add a comma in a sentence somewhere and then go to bed. I never know if my muse is going to show up or not, but I keep trying. And sometimes I feel like I’m doing this for nothing. I’m a writer. I write so it can be read. And if I’m the only one reading it, what’s the point?  So, thank you, early readers. I hope you know how much this means to me. Truly. The readers are just as important as the writer in bringing a story to life. More so even. I couldn’t do this without you.

And now that I’ve gotten these characters’ personalities set up in a way that I know and understand, let’s start getting that imagination cranking and make them do some crazy stuff.  Shall we? 😉

***

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
-E. L. Doctorow

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5 responses »

  1. I loved reading this, especially because I could so relate to it. It’s difficult to completely let go of who you are when your creating a character. Which is why whenever we write something, the reader is always wondering what part is drawn from the writer’s own life. All the best with your novel. Hope the muse decides to pay you longer visits 🙂

  2. Melissa This is exciting. I’m glad you are working on a novel. I’m sure it will be wonderful as your blog posts are 🙂 Can’t wait to read it. I just self-published my first novel, Colorado Sunset, on Amazon. You should check it out and let me know what you think.

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