Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Journey as a Novelist

Recently, a new reader asked me about the writing project I keep referring to on this blog. Here goes.

First, some background. I have always loved writing; if I hadn't been a music major, I probably would have been an English major. Until recently, most of my writing has been nonfiction: papers for school, pieces about education for home schooling publications, articles about teaching piano for my studio newsletter and website. I have been told that my style is clear and concise, and I am totally comfortable with the mechanics of writing: grammar, capitalization and punctuation.

About ten years ago, I started talking about writing a novel - based loosely on my experiences, but not a memoir; after all, the guilty must be protected. The next thing I knew, I was face to face with my 50th birthday. And I realized it was time to take some action.

It is one thing to TALK about writing a book; it is quite another thing to actually WRITE one. I decided to try an online fiction writing class and start with the basics. When it was over, I signed up for an novel writing class, and actually began working on my manuscript. A couple of weeks ago, I finished the "advanced" novel writing class; at this point, I am about halfway through with my story.

I love the process, although it is MUCH HARDER than I ever imagined. I have been an avid reader since I was very young, so I assumed writing a book meant starting at point A and going to point Z. NOT! There is so much to think about: setting, character, plot, point of view, dialogue and scene. Finding my "voice." "Show, don't tell." Figuring out whether I am a "plotter" (one who writes with a carefully devised plan) or a "pantser" (one who flies by the seat of her pants). I did have a rough outline in the beginning, but I have changed my mind about many details - including the opening scene and the name of one of my main characters - as I have gone along.

I try to write consistently; my daily goal is 1000 words, which takes me about two hours. Although I'm not always successful, even a couple hundred words moves me in the right direction. I also joined a writer's group, Georgia Romance Writers, the local chapter of Romance Writers of America. RWA membership is open to all authors pursuing a romance fiction writing career. According to the RWA website, "two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending." My book, which is women's fiction, definitely satisfies those criteria, as do books of many other subgenres: mystery, suspense, inspirational, paranormal, historical. GRW is composed of approximately 200 committed professional writers, and a large percentage of them are published authors. That alone is impressive. But even more impressive is the way these folks reach out to newbs like myself and offer their wisdom and support. I look forward to the monthly meetings in a big way; they are informative and inspirational.

Finally, thanks to published author Sandra Elzie, who critiqued the first 25 pages of my manuscript in a GRW workshop last Saturday, I know EXACTLY where my story is going to begin and have a much clearer picture of where I am headed. My goal is to complete the first draft of the book by the end of April. Then I will go back to the beginning and revise and revise with the goal of having the book ready to submit for publication by fall.

I realize the odds of actually being published are small. That is okay with me. Even though one of the items on my Amazing Life List is "become a New York Times bestselling author," what I want most is to write a book that I truly feel proud of. After that, whatever happens happens.

I am hoping that what I lack in talent, I will make up for in determination. Thanks to all of you who are sharing the ups and downs of this journey with me.


Dan said...

I have faith in you Pam. You can do it. Even to the point of being a best seller. Never stop. Keep on going. I'm looking forward to reading your book myself.

Dan said...

Keep at it Pam. I have faith in you. I'm looking forward to reading your book. And yes... I will pay for it!

Pam said...

Thanks, Dan. I am determined. But encouragement is always welcome! :-)