Writing a book isn’t something you just sit down one day and do. Well, maybe some authors did that, but not me. There was a huge learning curve. First, I had to learn the elements of a good story and how to manipulate them. Then there was character development. It’s unbelievable what goes into that; it’s a lot more than name and eye color. Each character has to have a wound, and motivation, plus a thousand other things. They’re supposed to feel real to the reader, so they have to be well-rounded and, well, real.
Once you have some characters, what do they do? How do they interact? What happens? I really hate this part. For me, figuring out what happens is like pulling teeth. But once it’s done, then you have to have the skill and knowledge translate it all into the written word. Words can be powerful. They can convey enormous emotion and drive compelling stories that you can’t put down. They can also be so incredibly boring that you’d rather go wash your baseboards.
A writer has to juggle all these things, plus a million more. She sifts them all together, then arranges them so they’re believable and authentic to the story and the characters, and most importantly, so they tell a great story. Nothing about the process is easy, but it can be incredibly satisfying when it all comes together.
My first book, Reading the Signs, took about three years to write. As an attorney, I spent years writing for a living, so I thought I knew what I was doing. I was wrong. The learning curve for writing fiction was enormous so I wrote, and re-wrote, then re-wrote again. I can’t tell you how many versions of RTS I wrote.
My second book, Fool Me Once, took only eighteen months. That’s half the time. However, it was a much more complex book. I had another steep learning curve to figure out how to juggle so many moving parts. Charts, timelines, mind nodes, calendars, and notecards stuck on cork boards are just a few of the things I used to keep it all straight.
I started writing my third book a couple weeks ago. The working title is Diamonds in the Rough, but that will probably change. It’s Josie’s story and while I’ve only written about 30 pages, I can tell it’s going to be a monster. There’s so much going on and some of the issues my characters deal with are big, gnarly, and intense. Even though I’m writing fiction, I feel an enormous responsibility to accurately represent what I write about. I’m always mindful that there are people in the real world dealing with the same issues as my characters. For them, I have to get it right— not only their suffering and struggles, but also the solutions and resources available to help them.
All of this boils down to the point of this post. Writing is very hard work and for me, writing the first draft is overwhelming. And that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m working on the first draft of Diamond on the Rough and I hope to have it done sometime in the next few months. Then I’ll start the process of revising, and that’s the part of writing that I love best. With any luck, I’ll cut the time it takes to write a book in half again, and I’ll get this one out in about nine months. Fingers crossed. Only time will tell. 🙂