On Writing a Novel
One finished novel, written over 30 years ago with a friend, sits on a shelf somewhere in my overcrowded, too messy office. The co-author told me to do with it what I wanted. I guess I wanted to store it on a shelf.
My second novel is now in the hands of someone who has never edited a novel. She is bright, a reader, in college, and I trust her. She is part of my clan, my tribe.
That novel took over 10 years to write from first line to the end and now I’m thinking of changing the end slightly. Happy, ever after doesn’t exactly fit as the other novels itching to be written are a mix of suspense and history.
I was on a long train ride from Fargo, N.D. to Eugene, Oregon when I handwrote the opening to that first novel. I titled it High Price Paid. The characters pay a high price and this author is paying one too. Writing is joyful hard work.
I was day dreaming when that novel started writing itself in my brain. A scene and two characters dropped into my conscious as I gazed out the window at the Montana landscape. The woman seemed familiar, so did the man, and jotting notes on whatever paper I could find helped pass the hours on that jouncing train. I loved the train ride and I loved the thrill and joy in writing the opening scenes in that novel.
I played at writing it off and on for seven years or so. Then the characters began to nag at me. I think they felt trapped in my brain and wanted out. I faced a steep, challenging learning curve. I knew lots about reading novels and not so much about writing one. But writing is my passion. Made my career writing words about others and for others in various publications and in public relations. Now I was released to write my own made up story.
I didn’t really think about being published but that hunger arrived in stages. I want these characters and their stories read. And there are always lessons to be learned in reading fiction. I discovered those lessons as I wrote.
Now deep into novel two, a prequel to the first one, I find some of the research hard. It is hard because of the content. It is hard because of the truth represented even in fiction. I was a child during World War II and now, I find I knew little about it, scarcely anything about the resistance, the bravery of Polish Jews, the horrors of concentration camp. I had only skimmed the surface of that part of history.
And I’d carefully avoided going much deeper into the Mid-East turmoil, the causes for that upheaval, now and in the 1980s where my main character is now in Yemen. These characters seem to have minds of their own and I fail at nudging them back into easier territory. I research, I read, I sigh, I pray and I write.
All of this is changing me in ways I have yet to understand. I only know I am changing. I can feel it. I hope one day to share news of where you can buy these novels because I truly want these characters to share truths told in fiction. And I would find great satisfaction in having these books read. Writers need readers to validate they chosen career.