Wednesday, January 8, 2014

WORDS

On May 6, 2013, I was whining to my good friend Judy Lawler that I needed a summer project. From 1989 through 2011, I had directed a musical theater production over the summer. I didn't do that in 2012 and wasn't planning on it again in 2013, so I needed something to fill my time.

She suggested I write a book, something I had always wanted to do. But my first thought was, write a book? Really? Can I actually do that? I said it seemed overwhelming, and she suggested I not think too big ... pick an event that had made an impact on my life, and concentrate on that. I recalled a high school friend of decades earlier who had done something extraordinary. She suggested I use that as the basis for my book, and said, "write it in the first person." That intrigued me. Sadly, my friend had died about twenty years ago, so she wasn't here to tell her own story.

I found writing HOW I GREW UP one of the most engrossing, absorbing, satisfying, creative things I had ever done in my long life, and 84,000 words and four months later, submitted the book for publication to Virtualbookworm, a print-on-demand publisher that describes itself as an "authors' clearing house." My manuscript was reviewed by three editors and accepted for publication and was in print by late October.

So engrossing that even before I had finished editing HOW I GREW UP, I had done some preliminary work on a second book. I've completed the rough draft of ELI'S HEART (working title) and am ready to begin editing/rewriting.

The process of writing has been fascinating. I'd never had a creative writing class in college, though as a show director I've written many "Director's Notes" ... one for each of the eighty-some shows I have directed for high school and community musicals over the past thirty years. I had also written an article about teaching voice for an e-publication for a music publishing company. That article was under 1,000 words, and I found myself spending a lot of time bringing the word count down. Writing HOW I GREW UP was quite an adventure in beginning to understand some basic writing concepts: "Write the story you'd like to read ... show, don't tell ... write long and cut ... " I did all of these things with my first novel. While it was based on an actual event, I wrote it as fiction, changing all names and being vague about time and location.

New adventure: writing as a third person narrator for ELI'S HEART. Third person narrator can't make judgments, must simply tell the story. But I get conflicting advice. If you are writing a paragraph and it's obvious you are in one character's head it's not necessary to constantly remind the reader it's that character who is having these thoughts. No, it's important to remind the reader the character is having these thoughts. What I've come to is as the author, if what I read and my kind friends who are willing to read for me understand what's going on, it will probably work.

Those kind friends may not have any idea how important they are. Writing is absorbing, engrossing, and almost obsessive, but it's something you do by yourself, and sometimes you re-read and wonder if what you've written is really good or really bad. Having nice friends who will read and give you feedback, I've learned, is absolutely vital.

So as I continue my adventure as a new writer, part of the reason for this blog is to thank those good and patient friends ... they know who they are ... for their input. They were vital to HOW I GREW UP. For ELI'S HEART I have more readers, and they are even more important, because it's a very different kind of book.