Creativity,  Fiction,  The Writing Life,  Writing a Novel

Don’t Panic

Standing (or sitting) at the starting gate of a long project like a novel can feel daunting. No one could blame you if you changed your mind and decided maybe being an author isn’t your jam after all. I remember when I was writing Winds of L’Acadie, and we were out at a social event. My husband told someone I was writing a novel. I sheepishly admitted it was true and then added, but I don’t know if it will actually get published or anything like that. After all, who was I to assume I was capable of such an enormous feat. I still remember the complete shock and dismay with which said someone delivered his response. Why on earth would you go to all that work to write an entire novel without having any idea if it will ever get published? I was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say. I felt as though he considered it a stupid thing to do. Well, let’s face it. He did think it was a stupid thing to do. Later, in the quiet of my own home I thought more about his harsh comment. I knew the answer. Had always known the answer. But there is no point in trying to explain to someone who has no clue about these things and I’m glad I didn’t try. The answer to why I was writing a novel? Simple. To see if I could do it. Could I write a novel with a beginning, middle and end? Could I write a novel that would be published, that people would buy in a bookstore and read? I didn’t know. But what I did know was that I wanted to try. And there was nothing silly or foolish about that goal.

I’ll admit it wasn’t easy and it took a long time but eventually I did (write a book), and it did (get published) and they did (buy my book in bookstores and read it.)

I was extremely lucky with this first novel. The very first response ( Ronsdale Press) was a positive one and they published Winds of L’Acadie after working with me on several significant edits and revisions. That has not been the case for every story I have written. One manuscript, in particular, I desperately wanted to find a home. I loved the story and it held personal significance for me. I thought it was a wonderful story which was well-written. But it did not sell. It’s painful when that happens. I have some writing friends who quit at that point. Because, if that story didn’t sell, what chance did future stories have? But the thing is, some of why a book does or does not sell is a mystery. Just because one story doesn’t sell, doesn’t mean the next one won’t. And so, for me, I am still answering that question. Can I do it? Can I write a novel with a beginning, middle and end? Can I write a book that will get published and that people will buy in a bookstore and read? I don’t expect it will ever be answered absolutely, because every time it is like starting at the beginning. Every time I have to remind myself to Just Start.

For years, an idea was percolating in the back of my mind. There were characters, ideas, bits and pieces. Scenes, even. But a key piece that would bring all the bits and pieces together into a compelling story was missing. Place often plays a significant role in my stories and it was place again that provided the spark for my new WIP (work-in-progress.) As I began to research a place of interest, I found it. The missing piece, and the story is now beginning to fall into place. It is so exciting when that happens. Each day, as I sit down to my lined yellow notepad, (yes I do my beginning notes on physical paper) I’m not sure what piece is going to evolve. I’m still discovering the story and the characters at this stage. But I do know how it starts and I know how it ends and working out the complexities that take place between those two points? Well, that’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun. Every day I ask a lot of questions and search for a lot of answers and somewhere in the midst of all the chaos, magic happens. Don’t panic if you don’t have all the answers. But don’t sit around and wait for the magic to appear. JUST START.

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