Initial Thoughts on Writing

(I wrote this in Feb, and forgot to publish….haven’t read it, hope it is ok!)

When I got laid off, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. It was also right before Thanksgiving (we were traveling for it), our children were visiting in December, and we were all going to Hawaii in early January. Looking for work under all those circumstances seemed daunting. Julianne suggested I write a book.

It seemed like a preposterous idea for several reasons:

  • I am a people person, being an author seemed like it might be a lonely job
  • I haven’t written anything of any length since my Carlson days when I was published in trade journals. I hadn’t written any fiction since, high school?
  • I didn’t think I had an idea for a book
  • You can’t make money, generally

Of course, Julianne reminded me that I had been writing Dungeons and Dragons adventures for friends for years. I had also talked about writing someday, and this was a good opportunity, she said. Turns out, she’s pretty persuasive, so I decided to write.

I’ll say this, I’m typing this up a few months after I started, and don’t have notes. With that caveat, here are some thoughts on being a novelist. These are pretty random, and not much for detail. I’m sure more posts will come later with more planning. Maybe.

The author appears to be closer to the characters than the readers:

I have written what I think is a good plot. It takes place in a unique world. There is action throughout. But, the characters are generic. At least they are for the readers. In my mind, they have feelings and goals and wants and desires. When my test readers read it, the feedback I get is that the characters are not memorable, nor do readers feel connected to them in an emotional way. In looking at my book from here, I can see that. I hint at things like attractions or sadness or other emotions, but rarely explore them. Since I received this feedback, I’ve re-read some sections. The characters are cookie cutter, good guy types, even though in my mind they are all distinct.

I can write without a plan:

I’ve read more than a few websites about how to write books. It appears that there are planners, and those that just write. I am/was in the latter camp. I literally opened MS Word, and started typing. I barely had an idea. I knew that there were some teenagers in a village, that were forced to flee. A ranger would help them. The book would be about them learning about themselves, both as people, and in what skills and power they could eventually bring to bear on the world. That was it. After five weeks or so, I had over 78,000 words.

A good deal of the book came from small ideas:

I had a throw away line early in the book,….

None of the other children believed him, but he saw Uliria looking at the stars and the three moons, with her lips moving in some kind of chant, while he repeated what he had heard for the third time.

Having three moons is now probably THE major thing about the world that drives the plot. Funny, now that I read that, I see three moons and “repeated…for the third time” and I cringe.

Editing seems easy, it is and it isn’t:

I thought editing would be really hard. How can you read what you wrote, and change it enough to matter, given how much time it takes? Well, turns out, given that I’m new, you can really see the difference between the first chapters and the later chapters, in terms of quality of writing. I was able to re-write large sections, and really improve the writing. Find and replace is also key, especially when you change the gender or name of a character! That said, look what happened in the section above. I just saw the use of “three” as an issue right now, and never caught that when editing. If/when I decide this thing can be published, I’ll hire an editor. No idea if that is the kind of thing she’ll catch or not, but we’ll see.

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