In my New Year’s Day post, I said my goal this year is to finish and publish a novel. The idea for this particular novel has been in my head for nearly five decades. Something happened to someone close to me that inspired me to tell a story. I’ve actually started this novel twice before but didn’t make much progress. This time I’m determined to make it happen.
I remember the first novel I wrote and published. Although I had always said I was going to write “someday,” it took a devastating stroke to motivate me to get started. I had to discipline myself to write; I didn’t have a computer at home, so I drove to my office every Saturday to spend the day writing. Trying to write “when I had time” didn’t work because I never had time. I had to make time.
Later, I formed a critique group with three other unpublished romance writers. We met at my home once a week, and we were each supposed to bring a chapter of our book for the others to critique. The members of the group were wonderful, and the group with an excellent balance of talent and knowledge, with complementary skills. I learned an incredible amount from their critiques and from critiquing their work. We also had a lot of fun!
But perhaps the most important benefit of being in the group was simply the discipline of writing a chapter each week. Sometimes, I was up most of the night before the meeting finishing my chapter, but I wasn’t going to be the one to show up without something new for critique. That discipline ensured I eventually finished my novel. I’m not sure I would have ever been published otherwise. Many writers never type “the end” because they try to make their first draft perfect. They edit and rewrite instead of writing new chapters. Without the discipline of writing a chapter a week for the critique group, I might never have finished the book, or if I did finish, it would have taken much longer.
I’m not in a critique group now, but I have created a daily task in my calendar to work on my novel. What the work is and how much I do varies, but most days I do something to move the story forward. Right now, I’m not doing much writing because I’m doing research. My “work” tonight might be spending time in online forums with people who share experiences that my heroine undergoes.
One of the best compliments I received on Dream or Destiny was a question asked by a podcaster. Although she was an online book reviewer and podcaster who interviewed authors, in her day job as an attorney, she advocated for adult survivors of child abuse. She began our interview by asking me if I had ever been a victim of child abuse. Surprised by the question, I answered, “No.” Then she asked if someone close to me had been abused. Again my answer was negative. I told her of my closest encounter with child abuse, when I should have recognized from a child’s reaction that he was abused. However, I was young and naive and didn’t realize until years later that the reaction meant that the little boy expected to be hit. I still feel guilty that I did nothing to help because I didn’t recognize the problem.
The interviewer said, “The reason I asked if you or someone close to you had been a victim is because I have never seen such a realistic portrayal in fiction of an adult survivor of child abuse as David in your book.” I told her that when I was writing, I spent a lot of time on websites and forums of adult survivors sharing their stories. I hope to become just as immersed in the stories of women who have made the same life-changing decision that Bonita makes in Act of Faith. I want readers to feel the emotions that Bonita feels, and I will spend as much time as it takes so I feel those emotions so deeply that my character reflects a person who has lived through what Bonita lives through.
I’ll be talking about the book from time to time here on the blog as well as to friends in the offline world. That is part of the discipline. You can help hold me accountable by asking me how the book is coming along. Back in the early days of my writing, I didn’t want to show up a critique meeting without a chapter; today I don’t want to have to admit that I’m not making progress.