The first post in this series revealed how I was driven to the point of writing my own fiction novel – a series of bad reads being the culprit. Now, we’ll fast forward a month or so to where you would likely hear me saying, “What have I gotten myself into?” for probably the hundredth time.
Unfortunately for me I understood I knew nothing about writing, and I also knew the ability wouldn’t miraculously come to me. Being a musician all my life taught me that to be better than the average musician takes more than having a knack for it. I assumed the same applied to writing. I also assumed it would take hard work and dedication to learn the craft properly. So, with this knowledge in mind, I came up with a logical series of steps to begin the process of writing my first novel, Darkness Knows Me .
STEP #1 RESEARCH HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ
They say, “Write what you know.” I don’t know who “they” are (bespectacled, cardigan sporting types, no doubt), but I saw this as sound advice, especially for a first time author. Since crime and mystery novels and crime television are my guilty pleasures, the genre for my fiction turned out to be a no brainer. Having been a science teacher for several years, I found the details of crime intriguing, and researching and learning new things have always been something I enjoy, serving to reinforce my choice of genre. Next I decided I would use Val McDermid’s and Martha Grimes’ novels as examples of how the genre is done well and as a way of knowing when my novel might be going astray.
Once I chose what kind of book I would write, I began doing what I love best- researching. (I heard that! Nerdism is only one of many facets of my sparkling personality.)
So . . . I Googled ‘How to write good fiction’ and discovered that a good novel is driven by a character’s internal conflict and the interesting story line the author has thrown her into to help her discover whatever it is she has to lose or gain from the conflict. Readers love conflict because it spurs them to turn the page to watch the story unfold. I love writing conflict because it allows me to see how my characters will react when they’re pushed beyond what it seems they can bear.
I also discovered that writing good fiction includes a great many other concepts that ensure the story is enjoyable and well put together. There are far too many to list here, but I will say I found it took a bit of juggling to get all these elements to fall into place.
Months and nearly 15 books later, I moved onto step two.
The act of writing great prose requires skill. A person can’t just string a bunch of words together and then hope the sentence makes sense. If you endured English classes in high school, then you know what I’m referring to is the mind-boggling subject of grammar. There are so many rules that they almost have a stifling effect when a person actually sits down to write. At least this is the effect it had on me, until I truly understood that without these rules, clear written communication is nearly impossible. I’m always learning something new about the subject, and I will probably never have grammar and its playmates completely in hand, much to my editors’ chagrin, I’m sure. (Sorry, Chris and Amy.)
Fast forward a few more months to step three.
STEP #3 PUT WHAT YOU’VE READ INTO PRACTICE
There is nothing worse than being one of those people who talk about something and never do it, so after studying how to write for nearly a year, I plunged into the actual writing of my novel. I have to say, step three is where things started to become a bit tricky, or frustrating -either word will work. Yes, I had the head knowledge of how to write a potentially good book, but putting all that information together is difficult and requires a great deal of trial and error and writing and rewriting to get a novel to the point where it might be enjoyable to someone else .
Getting it right meant not only applying what I learned from the books on writing, but researching. First, Deep Ellum (the area of Dallas, Texas, where my story takes place) – its history, its populace and where the community is heading today. (Fun fact: Deep Ellum was a major player in the 1920’s jazz and blues era.) It meant researching Cheese Heroin, a drug that paralyzed the Dallas community when the respiratory depressant became popular with the middle schoolers in the Dallas school district. It also meant researching police procedure, forensics and the Northeastern coast of England. (One of my lead characters is English)
In four short years (or not so short years depending on which side of the span of time you’re standing), I wrote, rewrote, rewrote again and eventually finished Darkness Knows Me, the first novel of my Olivia Gates and Will Green crime series.
Now you’ve read about the process I went through. If you sit back down in the cart and promise to stay with me as I finish my carnival ride to authorship, I’ll tell you about the circus hoops an indie author has to jump through to build a following for her books.
Cheers for now!
Are you writing a book? Do you have insights you would like to share regarding authorship? Do you have a funny story you would like to share with us about your personal journey to authorship?