Growing up, I loved reading. I read while watching TV. I read during meals until my parents ordered me to stop this habit. In high school I blasted through homework so I could read. In college I learned to avoid novels because I would read them instead of studying. I have even read while driving. (Yes, it was stupid, and I quit long ago.) I admired all authors, especially of fiction, but I never considered myself much of a writer until I began working and received compliments about my business correspondence.
These compliments eventually enticed me to consider writing a book about some subject that interested me. I soon realized I was not an “expert” in any of them, nor did I have the passion to become expert. I thought about a memoir, but quickly discarded this idea because there were not enough compelling events in my life for a book. This left fiction.
Once this decision was made, I knew I had to learn the writing craft. I then took courses in creative writing from two excellent instructors, and I read books about writing written by successful authors such as Stephen King. I also set the following goals for my book:
1) Story, Story, STORY: I agreed with King who said that these were the three most important elements of any novel.
2) Emotional Journey: I challenged myself to seize the breadth of the reader’s emotions.
3) Fictionalize Truth: I intended to adapt some of my experiences and those of people I knew to the story. As the saying goes, “Strange but true, truth is stranger than fiction.”
4) Premise: King said the idea for his books began with a single question. Mine was why would a man who appeared to have everything going for him have low self esteem?
After this preparation, I began my novel and immediately ran into three frustrating problems. First, I did not enjoy writing. Second, although I had the experiences mentioned above to write about, there was not enough material to wrap a novel around. Third, I doubted my writing ability. As I forged ahead, my frustration grew.
Fortunately, a friend who was a business consultant helped me with the first problem. At the end of a phone conversation with him I lamented, “I’ve got to write some more today.” He advised me to change my perspective; instead of looking at it as I’ve “got” to write, think of it as I “get” to write. I don’t know why his advice worked, but it did. After this, I loved writing.
Once writing became a joy, the second problem took care of itself. Not knowing where my novel was going turned out to be the best part of writing it. At the end of the day, I would pace across my redwood deck with ideas flowing to me about what would happen next. In this way I became both the writer and reader as I watched the story unfold.
My third problem remained. I had ten people read sections of the manuscript as I finished them. They liked the story, but I still questioned my writing quality. Then, serendipity struck. One of the readers owned the local coffee shop. She introduced me to a writer who frequently vacationed in our area. It turned out the woman was also a writing coach; however, she did not want to mix work with her holidays. I used my sales ability to convince her to assess my first chapter only. When we met again, her thoroughness astounded me. Her penciled comments covered my document. She reviewed each one, showing me where I demonstrated skill and where I could do better. She then offered to take me on as a client.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this was not the beginning of the end of my writing journey, but it was the end of the beginning. As my writing improved, I alternated between creating new prose and editing the old. I calculate that by the time Dreams of Life attained its current form I had written and rewritten it three times.