Monday, March 24, 2008

My Ordinary World

When did you decide you wanted to be a fiction writer? Maybe you always knew. Maybe some event, something you read, or saw, or experienced, created a sudden inspiration. Maybe you woke up one day and the inspiration just took hold. However you came to the decision to write, I’m sure you will agree that the process is a journey – not unlike the Hero’s Journeys of mythological stories.

My decision to write a novel happened about four and a half years ago. I’ve always loved reading – it was my sanctuary as a child, and a love that continued into adulthood. But I’d never considered writing a novel.

Perhaps it was the series of books I’d recently read with less than satisfying endings. Perhaps it was a realization that authors as different as John Grisham and Diana Gabaldon had not, in fact, majored in English in college with an eye toward becoming professional writers. That writing was a path you could choose at any point in life. Wherever you want to place the blame, once the decision was made, I shortly awoke to the fact that I had a lot to learn. Writing a novel wasn’t as simple as spilling my personal fantasies and imaginations onto a page. (Believe me, you do not want to read that!)

I’m no stranger to non-fiction/business writing. I spent 10 years writing reports explaining health care insurance claims data to executives, and creating in-house training documents for fellow data analysts and end-users of a database reporting system I helped to develop. And let’s not forget about that Master’s Thesis (Service Line Management in Healthcare, if you’re wondering) – a year in the making, hardbound, and collecting dust on some library shelf in the Xavier University archives.

Does non-fiction/business writing really prepare one to write fiction? Clearly, four-and-a-half years later, it’s not an immediate transition, at least not for me. Although perhaps more knowledge of fiction craft techniques would have kept those executives awake and on the edge of their seats! But the love of writing, of enlightening the reader, that carries over. More difficult for me is how to structure that fiction story. How to write engaging scenes that flow together into a complete novel.

I’ve done a lot of learning in the past four years – mostly with the aid of the Compuserve Books and Writer’s forum (see link to the right) and the many, many wonderful writers I’ve met there, and by attending the Surrey International Writer’s Conference for the past 3 years. And of course, I read about writing, and practice writing, and exchange pieces for critique with my other writer friends. And I read, a lot. I can’t imagine my life now without my writer’s community. But that question still hangs out there – when am I going finish my novel?

Come back and visit me as I travel along my road, discovering plotting techniques (my next self-assigned learning goal), exploring web design, book and author promotion ideas, and generally traveling my self-assigned journey to writing a novel.