Going into the publishing process, I was a bit overwhelmed. As a first time writer, I discovered that there was so much more than “writing” to get a handle on – learning how to develop and deliver an effective pitch, how to interview, learning how to market myself, etc. Early on, I learned that how you deal with disappointment is critical to your success. Failure can either shut you down or spur you on; you can let it define you or you define it. Simply, you always have a choice.
I strongly dislike, no, let me just say it, I hate using the word “failure.” It conjures negative, hurtful images from my time at school and maybe it does for you. Let’s replace the word ‘failure’ with the phrase (at least until I find something better) ‘brain-teaser.’ Why ‘brain-teaser?’ Well, most people enjoy solving puzzles, no matter how many attempts it takes to solve them. The joy and challenge comes from solving it and/or winning. Few people keep a record of your failures (oops, there I go using that word again). Most people will laud your accomplishment and be amazed with your success. In other words, if you’re not successful the first time you attempt something, don’t sweat over it. Watch and learn from others who have been successful and the missing links will eventually fall into place, allowing you to be successful on your own terms.
So, what does all of this have to do with writing? To me, writing is like putting together a big puzzle: each properly placed piece is critical to the final outcome. Quitting can’t be an option if you want to achieve success. Patricia Cornwell once said, “You don’t become a writer—you are one. And, if you really are a writer, it’s like telling a songbird to shut up—you can’t.” That is so true, don’t you think?
There is no ‘the way’ to write a story – to set up a plot. It comes down to everyone finding what works for them. For me, I have a general idea about how I want the novel to begin and end, and that’s it. I consider myself an ‘organic’ writer; I start with an image, often not really knowing what is going to happen. The next step comes as the previous is completed.
In my book Betrayal of Trust, Janet Thompson was originally to be a minor character. However I enjoyed Janet interacting with Charlotte Bradley, and later Edward Slocum, so much that I was compelled to write her in.
I would develop situations; throw myself curve balls, for lack of a better term, just to see what would happen with the story. Often, it would take me a week or more to problem solve my way out of the situation. I guess it’s the mathematics side of me that manifests itself in these situations. Whatever is going on in these situations, for me I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think Patricia Cornwell captures my reason for writing this way nicely, “…I can’t imagine outlining a book and then just sitting down and writing it. I think it would lose its emotional being—the effervescence, the sparkle. It would get flat…”
Storytelling to me is an act of gratitude to the books and people who have shaped my life. I know it may sound like a highbrow statement but it’s true. I have arrived at this point in my life—not alone—but with the help of many throughout my life. It is important to never forget that and always give that fact credit.