Oops, did I mention those things are mutually exclusive. Few novelists become millionaires. In fact, by the time all is said and done, I expect to be paid about 57 cents an hour for the work I did. Assuming you will be so kind as to buy my book!
I don’t usually blog about the writing process. Lots of my fellow writers are superior at that, but today I’ll take a stab at it as my experiences are unique and may be of help. Especially if you have steady income streams from other sources.
First of all I honestly had no idea how most novels are written when I started this project. I still don’t, except I’m pretty sure they begin with a story that the writer has in their head and wants to get out.
In my case, I can’t take much credit as the story didn’t come from my head but from real life people and situations. As time has gone by, I realize the world is full of stories. All you have to do is pay attention to people and listen.
I didn’t have to do much with the plot, it was already present. I know the characters personally, but since this is a novel, I gave them different names and characteristics, with generous borrowing from the real people. It was like pre-cooked bacon. I love bacon!
But lest you think I just stuck it all into the microwave and pressed a button, you ought to know, a full historical novel requires more than plot and characters. Information and research is vitally important and my biggest fear is to make an obvious error. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, information on this aspect of history was difficult to come by and most of the real life people I talked to were children at the time, their knowledge of political and war events minimal.
Many conversations were piecemeal, jotted down as people happened to be sharing their stories of cruelty and injustice. I tried not to press too hard, letting them reveal only what they chose to reveal. I put together a “history” of sorts, a chronology of the events and the political and social happenings that shaped the time.
When I started in earnest with the novel, the first few scenes involved the main character’s childhood home. I had an old photograph to go on but my creative writing skills were rusty and you won’t find that first paragraph in its original form. It was very bad.
I also wrote a scene from a little boy’s perspective regarding bedbugs, however when I got further into the book, it became apparent that his character would not be granted a “Point Of View.” So I had to re-work the scene and share it with another character instead.
Early in the process, I took a creative writing course, helping me learn about “scene” and “point of view.” Since then I have taken other courses that have been extremely helpful. If you want to write a novel and have no idea what I’m talking about, you need to find out. Go to a writer’s conference, take a course or read some writing blogs like these:
My story had a basic chronology, but I often didn’t know how the characters would transition from one situation to the next, so I wrote scenes in all kinds of random order as they came to me- sometimes at 4:00 AM. Honestly. Cheers all round please. I am not a morning person.
I drew heavily from other personal accounts as well as my own imagination as to how things unfolded. Then I reworked them. Countless times.
They say you should write what you know, so in 2009, I visited Poland and the former “East” Germany. Nothing like the real setting to bring writing to life!
Though many Christians write “Christian” novels providing clean and uplifting reads for other believers, I wanted my novel to have appeal to a broader audience. How interesting that faith, as a recurring theme in the midst of chaos, implanted itself into the story with little conscious effort on my part. That can only be a God thing. He has a role in all creative endeavours. I thank Him for that, even if I have to get up at 4:00 AM to write!