Friday, January 24, 2014

I Want to Write a Book…Someday

How many times have we heard someone say that? How many times have we said that? I can ask because I’m sitting here with half a dozen novels started (as in years ago) and only two completed, one of which (the first one) needs a major overhaul.

Speaking of years, they pass much too quickly. Children are born. They grow up, go to college, leave the nest. Jobs change, goals change, sometimes mates change or simply move on. Did we write that book? Grandparenthood brings new joys, and pending retirement comes with its own unique challenges. Time constraints ease—perhaps we can even call some days our own to do what we please. Did we write that book?

Many began their writing careers before the bloom of youth disappeared in a mist, never to be revisited. Others waited…or are still waiting. Is it someday yet? Let’s look at the advantages of writing after experiencing life’s roller-coaster ride—whether it’s our debut novel, a new release on our list of published works, or a story written solely for family and friends.

• We’ve run the gamut of emotions from love to hate to anger to joy to grief and more and can harness them to mold emotionally believable characters.

• We’ve raised a family and/or juggled a career, so we can present either or both scenarios realistically.

• We’ve dealt with a mate for better or worse and survived the terrible twos and terrifying teens, so we can speak with authenticity and heart about relationships.

• We’ve seen many sides of life—directly or through friends, loved ones, or the media—and feel comfortable in sharing its varied aspects through our characters.

• We’ve mellowed, at least a little, which gives us some advantage in storytelling. We can recall the volatility and extremes of younger years, the frustrations of middle age amid mounting insecurities in a changing world, the fear of growing old and becoming dependent on others; and all this is tempered with outcomes, good and bad, that make great grist for the writing mill.

• We’ve learned compassion for our fellow humans and seen the terrible toll of violence that creates headlines several times a week.

• We’ve broadened our horizons and learned to examine various facets of any situation rather than jump to conclusions.

Are you a young writer? Or do you have years of learning and observing behind you that lend credibility to your tales? Has the aging process affected the way you write? Has the depth of your characters grown with the passing of years? What advantages or disadvantages of ongoing maturity have colored your work? As you begin the new year, how do you plan to apply life lessons learned to your writing?


Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at www.denvereditor.com.

24 comments :

  1. I started writing as soon as I learnt how to write. Literally. Since then, nearly a quarter of a lifespan later, there have been many ideas and novels started, a number of completed stories and two completed novels, which are still being polished 10 years after I first began them. Many of my stories, I will never even think of publishing, because those stories were written for myself only and are exactly how I want them, but would not be considered of a quality good enough for public consumption. While I think of publishing something one day, I'm more enjoying the journey of writing my writing into something I am pleased for others to read.

    Through the years, I have seen my writing content change from naive innocence and cliche filled quirky 'stuff', into more concise prose that surprises even myself when I re-read. My grammar and spelling hasn't improved very much (sadly - you'd think I'd have learnt from my repetitive mistakes by now), but the stories have matured. They don't sound like a little kid trying to write as much anymore. For a while there, I thought I'd never grow up.

    Being able to develop relationships, characters and broaden the genres within which I can write has been quite fun. I have always aspired to be a writer (with a target audience of firstly me, and then other people), but recently I have realised that with the amount I write, I am already a writer. Just not a published one. I don't have to be published to write if I enjoy it and there are other ways of sharing stories these days (eg blogs - in which I mostly just play around with words).

    Conclusion: Words are great fun when you can play with them and with experience it only gets better (that is, you find more ways to play).

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    1. What a beautiful comment, Jovanna! You have learned what many of us never learn—you write first to please yourself and to fulfill your need for expression. Enjoying what you do is so much more important than forcing your nose to the grindstone to meet someone else's deadline. Kudos to you as you continue to mature in that which you love—being a true writer! :-)

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  2. I'm a firm believer in Nike's logo. Just Do It! Writing is a learning experience every day, and the challenge is that no matter how you strive to be perfect, you never will be. But, oh, how you strive. Writing is no different than athletics. In fact that's just what it is, athletics of the brain. I'll never make the Olympics, but I'll keep trying to improve my skill. I'm an old writer, not in years writing but in years. But the challenge is keeping me young--well, younger, and every day is a new experience. What could be better than that?

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    1. I agree, Polly. Writing keeps the brain agile even when the body complains about its aches and pains. Numerous well-known authors have continued writing well into the winter of their years, including Belva Plain, Barbara Cartland, and Tony Hillerman, who have set a great example for the rest of us. However, perfection is not the goal. Telling a great story is...even with the imperfections and foibles that make it so true to human nature and so appealing to our readers.

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    2. So right, Polly! Even spewing out utter crap is still writing. We can't just dream about it. We have to actually write every day. That's my hard lesson learned. Just do it!

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  3. I had a well-worn AARP card before I gave a thought to writing. It was a whim, something to do as a creative outlet when I ran out of room on my walls for needlepoint. But now, it's What I Do, and I can't imagine not writing. Yes, having more life experience under my belt can help, but I think that's counterbalanced by writing about younger characters and not having a clue about that age-group anymore. But, with 13 books published, and #14 almost finished, I think it boils down to writers write.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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    1. Absolutely, we do just that; we write. I even think, on some level, we also relate younger characters, although perhaps not those with piercings and tattoos that were never seen in our youth. Having said that, I have grown grandchildren (and adolescent great-grandchildren) who can educate me about the current generations—which is a huge help. :-)

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  4. Unfortunately, I'm no better at learning life lessons than I was learning school lessons ... once a slacker, always a slacker.

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  5. Yet you write, Christopher. I've read some of your stuff, and I'm impressed. You're not all that much of a slacker. :-)

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Linda ... made my day.

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  6. I started writing novels late in life. Wish I had started sooner, but it wasn't a goal when I was younger.

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    1. I started my first novel when I was in high school (mid 1950s) and had forgotten all about it until a few years ago when my brother mentioned it and even told me what it was about. The next one didn't begin until I was in my 50s, and it's one of those that's eagerly awaiting completion.

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  7. I always knew I wanted to write so I took classes and attended mystery conventions when I could during my working years. As soon as I retired, I jumped in and gave it a shot. And yes, I definitely use some of my life experience in settings, events, characters, and lots of descriptions. I think my writing would have been very different if I'd started earlier.

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    1. I know my early works are far different (and a bit more shallow) than what I write now. Life has a way of teaching us, shaping us, and mellowing us, doesn't it?

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  8. I too have been writing since I could form letters, but I was in my mid-40s before I actually started "writing that book some day." And now I have two published and two more coming out this year! Just do it, indeed!

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    1. You're a good example for all of us, Heidi. :-)

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  9. It amazes me how many people have on their bucket list: write a novel/book. But they don't write every day. That's what it takes as I so painfully am aware. Goals. Ten pages a day. Even one page as an effort counts. Record the successes and the failures. Monitor your progress weekly. Have a group of peers to keep you on-task and honest. We can turn this into another follow-up post, Linda. Meet me over at Nag Sisters for a prompt. ;)

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  10. Not only do they not write every day, but they often don't write any day. Setting a goal is a must, and keeping a record as a way of accountability to that goal, a necessity. Otherwise, the goal eventually falls by the wayside, even for the writer who has the best of intentions.

    By the way I visited Nag Sisters and left a plan. :-)

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  11. And some of us can't write every day because we bite off more than we can chew with other projects. I get the most done by scheduling mini-retreats for myself so I can indulge in a little binge writing.

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    1. Right (no pun intended). My best writing is in the early morning, usually between 6 and 8 a.m. It's rare that anything interferes with that time frame.

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  12. Years of traveling, living, loving, and maturing . . . the dramas of family and friends . . . the issues faced on a daily basis . . . all provide material for the mature writer. The dramas of our lives give us a breath and a depth that is undeveloped in our younger years. As an older writer, I realize the wealth of information I carry in my personal history. Sometimes I regret not starting to write sooner, but more often I delight in what age brings to my work.

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    1. I agree without reservation. Youth's exuberance simmered and seasoned with life's many experiences provides us with huge advantages as older writers.

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  13. I've had people tell me they have a great idea for a book, and want to know if I'll write it for them, as if it's the easiest thing to do! I decline, since I have enough of my own ideas which have not yet seen the light of day!

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    1. As this implies, most folks have no idea what goes into writing a book. It appears that those who ask you to pen one for them are looking for a ghost writer, or maybe they're asking to hire you to write their book. Some writers do those things...not me. Like you, I have more ideas than I will be able to commit to paper or hard drive (or some type of recording device, I suppose) unless I live to be well past 100...with mind to imagine and fingers to type still working.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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