What My Novel Is About

I have written the Prologue and first five chapters of my novel titled From Dream To Nightmare. Here is the Prologue. Please read it and let me know what you think. Does it leave you wanting to read more?

 

The door closes. There’s no turning back.

“What am I doing on this plane? Have I completely lost my mind?”  As Laurel Martin settles into her seat on a plane bound for Amsterdam, these and other doubts flood her mind. Embarking on an adventure of a lifetime, Laurel wonders if it is such a good idea. But it’s too late now to change her plans.

The approach of a distinguished-looking gentleman taking the seat next to her interrupts her thoughts. He smiles. She smiles back. As the video plays demonstrating the various safety items, Laurel searches the pocket of the seat in front of her for “the bag” in case she needs it. The FASTEN SEATBELT sign flashes and the plane begins its journey to the runway for take-off. Laurel takes a deep breath and grabs the arms of her seat.

The gentleman notices the signs of anxiety. “Is this your first time on a plane?

Laurel fakes a slight laugh. “It’s not my first time on a plane, but it is my first time on such a long flight, alone, to somewhere I’ve never been before.”

“By the way, I’m Steve.”

“I’m Laurel. Nice to meet you.”

“You’ll love Amsterdam. I’ve been there several times. Maybe I could show you around or, at least, give you some suggestions of things to see.”

“Thank you,” says Laurel, “but Amsterdam is just a layover for me. My final destination is Niarobi, Kenya.”

As the plane takes off and sets its course, Steve and Laurel enter into conversation. She tells him she is a recently retired U.S. History teacher who has traveled frequently throughout the States.

“Now that I’m no longer teaching I decided to go somewhere more adventurous. I’ve always dreamed of going on an African safari. I’m making that dream a reality. I hope I don’t regret this decision.”

“It sounds quite exciting to me,” says Steve. “I’ve traveled to many parts of the world, but never to Africa.”

The gentle hum of the plane engine and the pleasant conversation with Steve have a calming effect on Laurel. She releases her grip on the arms and her breathing becomes more natural. She and Steve enjoy the meal served to them about an hour into the flight, then prepare to watch the movie. It is a comedy which does wonders for easing Laurel’s tension. The rest of the trip to Amsterdam is relaxing, mostly due to Steve’s presence.

The eight-hour flight goes by too quickly. Steve and Laurel disembark from the plane, chatting the entire time as they walk through the terminal.

“Best of luck to you on your adventure. I’m sure it will be filled with all sorts of memories for you,” Steve says as he gives Laurel’s hand a little squeeze.

Laurel responds with a smile and a squeeze back. “Thank you for being a stable force for me on this part of my journey.”

Steve goes toward the baggage claim and Laurel heads to the gate for her final fight to Kenya. Both turn toward each other at the same time, smile, and wave good-bye.

 

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Why I Chose to Pursue Writing

9-18-2011 12;08;51 PMI’ve written many devotionals over the past few years, all of them online (except for one published in Halo Magazine and some for my church). I’ve written blogs post about my journey while writing my first novel. However, I’ve never written anything about me and why/how I got into writing in the first place. So here it goes:

My father had a degree in Journalism. He wrote for the Grand Rapids Herald and later was an editor for the Grand Rapids Press for many years. Later in life he wrote public relations material for a manufacturing company. He also wrote monthly articles in a furniture trade magazine. In 1950 his one and only novel was published.Then along came my son. He’s had two poems published. I began wondering if the “writing gene” had skipped over me.

I loved writing term papers in school and doing the research. But could I ever write anything else? About eight or nine years ago I decided to take a writing course through the mail. It was a good course and I was able to learn the basics of writing, but I realized I needed to learn more.

I heard about a couple local writers’ conferences through friends who were writers so I attended one. After that experience I was hooked. I wanted to write. I had no idea if I had the talent to write, but I had the passion and was determined to learn everything I could and begin writing. I started reading books on the craft of writing and attended more conferences.

I started with a blog in 2012 where I posted a daily devotional related to photographs I took. Why I ever committed myself to doing a daily post I have no idea. I must have been out of my mind, but I stuck with it for one year.

I joined Word Weavers International, a Christian writers’ group. I learned at a conference there was a local West Michigan chapter. I’ve been a member for five years. The support and encouragement I have received from this group is amazing. Through their critiques of my writing I have learned so much. I also continue to attend one or two writers’ conferences every year. At these conferences I’ve shared some of my writing with publishers, editors, and authors. Through those contacts my knowledge of how to write has grown.

Then about two years ago I got an idea for a novel. I started writing it, but it was not going anywhere, so I put it on the back shelf. However, it kept nagging at me to be written. Now, two years later and with encouragement from my writing friends I am writing my first novel. And I am having so much fun. Two years ago the timing was wrong. Now it’s spot on and the words are flowing. I have completed four chapters and my excitement builds with each page I write.

I will be 65 years old in December. I’m a little late getting into the game, but I’m in now with full force.  If you have even the tiniest thought that you’d like to write, GO FOR IT. I want to warn you, you will need to invest time, work, and some money if you really want to seriously pursue writing, but it’s all worth it in the end.

Please share how you got the writing bug. I’d love to hear about the experiences of others.

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What To Do When Life Piles Up

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Everyone of us goes through times in our lives when everywhere we turn something needs to be done. And many of those things have limited time frames in which they have to be done. You need to take Sally to piano lessons, Joe to tennis, then both to swim class. In the midst of that you forgot to go shopping so there’s nothing for dinner. Throw a crisis into the mix and you’re sure you are going to lose your mind.

Stop for a moment. Read what Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Life will keep happening. Things will pile up. We’ll have moments when we don’t know which way to turn.

  •  Tell God about it.
  •  Then take a deep breath. We still have to do all the things, but we can approach them with a calm heart and clear mind.
  •  Prioritize. Look at what can be done tomorrow when the schedule is not so full.
  •  Order pizza for dinner.

Dear Lord, I feel like I’m ready to go crazy. There’s so much to do and not enough time to do it. Please calm my racing spirit. Clear my mind so I can sort things out. Help me take that deep breath so I can carry on with life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Making Progress

942436_10200539607545673_710765186_nWriting my novel is a slow process, mainly because I don’t have a lot of time to write. I like to have a block of time so that when I’m writing I’m not constrained by a limited time frame. Once the words start flowing I don’t want to have to stop because I have something else I need to do. Weekends are usually the best time for me. During the week I work full-time and in the evenings my brain is fried from the work I did all day. However, that doesn’t mean on Monday through Friday I’m not working on my book.  Ideas keep popping into my head about various scenes or approaches which I immediately jot down so I don’t forget them.

Chapter 1 of “From Dream To Nightmare” was critiqued by my writers’ group last month. This went very well. Chapter 2 is ready to be critiqued at our next meeting.  This morning I began the rough draft of Chapter 3.  I am surprising myself as to what is coming out on paper. Once I get Chapter 3 written I will need to do more research before beginning the next chapter.

While I am writing this novel I am reading the book “Story Trumps Structure – How To Write Unforgettable Fiction By Breaking The Rules” by Steven James.  I highly recommend this book for fiction writers. It is full of practical instruction and ideas for making your fiction believable and captivating for readers. James covers areas such as story progression, how to shape our stories, characterization, plot flaws, how to build suspense to keep our readers into the book, etc. It is full of examples for each area James deals with. This is a great resource for all fiction writers.

I first came up with the idea for a novel about two years ago, but I thought it was ridiculous for me to consider writing a book. I am so glad now that I’m actually doing it. If you are thinking about writing but are afraid to begin, don’t let those fears stop you. Start writing. Also, find a group of writers to help you. Input from other writers is so valuable.

 

 

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Have Your Writing Critiqued

Lake MI 1Having your writing critiqued by others can be a nerve-racking experience. You must sit quietly while the people around the table read your work and then discuss it like you’re not there. Although the process might be difficult to go through the end result is worth it. They are able to see things you missed or present a better way of saying something that you would never have thought of.

I recently had the first chapter of my novel critiqued by my writers’ group. I nervously sat as they went through my writing. I don’t always change everything the group might suggest. There are times when the way I wrote something is my voice and I leave it as is. Other times I am surprised by things they suggest that I know will make my writing better.

As they were critiquing my story one of the members asked if it was fiction or non-fiction. He asked this because of the descriptions I used.  The group all agreed they really felt they were in the place I was describing.That made me feel good. One thing I learned early was that if your fiction story takes place in a real location you must be true to that location.

My story takes place in Niarobi, Kenya.  I have never been there, but someday someone who has actually been to Niarobi might read my book and say, “I remember seeing that.” It took a lot of research to be able to describe what my character saw when she arrived. It was worth it to get the reaction I did from the group. At times I thought maybe I was using too much detail, but my fellow writers convinced me the details were just right.

I usually wait a couple days before reading what was written about my work. The anxiety has subsided by then and I can read their comments with an open mind. In this recent case they pointed out some sentences which could be written stronger and a paragraph that needed some work. This is great because from their critique my writing can become better.

No matter what you are writing have people read your work who you trust will give you an honest critique. It’s great to hear that your writing is good. It’s also very helpful to hear where you can improve. As writers we are learning all the time how to become better. Critique groups are one way you can become a better writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Research and More Research

WIM000762.JPGhy in the world did I decide to use a real location for my story? A fictitious place would be so much easier to write about. Oh well, I need an actual site for the plot I’m developing so I must make the most of it.

I am finding that the more research I do, the more I have to keep doing. Not only do I need to describe streets, buildings, scenic views as they really are, I need to know customs, what to wear, what to eat, what should a woman traveling alone watch out for.  The list goes on.

I feel like the road is closed right now. I just want to write my story. However, I know if I don’t pay attention to accurate details my credibility goes right down the tubes. No wonder it takes so long to write a book. I know a lot of research is needed for non-fiction writing. I never realized the amount needed for fiction as well.Therefore I’ll keep studying street maps, looking at pictures online so I can write detailed descriptions, reading guide books, etc. I need to do the construction work to get the road open to write.

Of course, I want to write the best novel I can and if it means I need to spend hours doing research I’ll do it. I do have to admit that I can’t wait until I can get into the meat of writing the story again, but for now I have to bite the bullet and get the research done.

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The Writing Saga Continues

942436_10200539607545673_710765186_nI love Saturday mornings. That is when I have a large block of time to devote to writing. I quickly make my breakfast and get the coffee going, then I sit at my dining room table and begin. Everything is within reach that I need to make the most of this time.

The prologue, epilogue, and chapter 1 are written. My protagonist (Laurel) has arrived in Kenya and is settled in the hotel she will be staying for a couple nights before moving on. I am to a point in the story where I have to stop and do more research before going any further. If my main character is going to explore Nairobi I have to make it real. I need to know the customs and culture. I want my readers to experience Nairobi through my writing, to be able to picture in their minds what Laurel is seeing and doing. I found two great books on Kenya and a street map of Nairobi.

I am thinking the rest of this morning and probably next Saturday morning will be spent on jotting down notes as I read through the books and study the map. I really want to write, but I don’t want to make things up about a real place as I go along. Research is so important to writing, even when writing fiction. When I write short stories there is not much research involved, if any. I can usually draw from personal experience. However, I’ve discovered writing a novel is a whole different ballgame. Thank goodness I enjoy doing research.

Each time I sit down to work on this project I’m filled with excitement, wondering what’s going to happen next, who will Laurel meet, what will she experience. I have my basic ideas, but things I never thought of keep popping up as I write. Writing a novel is hard work, but it’s also so much fun.

As I go along I will be bringing my writing to my critique group to read so they can give me suggestions. They are of wonderful group of writers who inspire and encourage me. I value their input and I’ve seen my writing improve over the years because of being part of a supporting critique group. If you are a writer, no matter what you write, I encourage you to find a critique group to join.

That’s all for today. I must get back to my research. Please leave comments. I would love to hear about the journeys of other writers.

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Writing A Book

IM000893.JPGI am definitely finding out that writing a novel is no easy task. Today I spent almost three hours doing research.  My story takes place in Kenya. Because I’ve never been to Kenya I must find out all about it, at least about Nairobi and surrounding areas. I want my story to be believable. That will take a lot of reading, both from books and online. However, these hours flew by. I was immersed in the information I was finding. I have a lot more research ahead of me before I can really get into the meat of writing my book, but so far this part of writing is quite interesting to me. I always enjoyed doing terms papers when I was in school. This is a continuation of that on a bigger scale.

I’ve heard authors say that your characters will lead you as you write. I am finding this to be true even while I’m doing my research. For example, my lead character is a recently retired teacher. I have started developing a basic profile, but as I was doing my reading today I also discovered some new traits and abilities my teacher needs to have.  The reading I did led me to some sub-plots for my story as well that will tie in nicely with the main plot, pulling the story all together.

I know writing this book will take a lot of time, dedication, and hard work, but I think it will also be fun. Seeing things starting to develop and fall into place already is exciting. My characters are beginning to take on lives of their own. I’m just along for the ride making sure their story gets down on paper.

I will continue to blog about the progress I am making as I go along. I would greatly appreciate any comments and suggestions along the way. I’d also love to hear experiences from other writers about your writing journeys.

 

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I’m Asking For Suggestions

As you can see, this is not my usual devotional blog. I am starting a new venture with my writing. For a couple years I’ve had the idea in my head for a novel. I have decided that 2016 is the year I will seriously begin the process. I have my main characters picked out, named, and know what they look like. I have maps and books about the location of my story. I’ve interviewed someone who has been to the location many times for some feel of the local flavor. I also got a flight plan to the location from a travel agent.

I’ve written the blurb that would go on the back cover giving a brief description of the book (just enough to entice the curiosity of potential readers).  Rough drafts of a few scenes are done.

I now have to read the books and study the maps so my story will be believable, but I would also like to begin writing as I go along. At this point it seems like an impossible task. I have no clue how the story is going to flow.

In reading books on writing I know you are just to start writing and the story will begin to take shape. What I would like to know from those of you who have written novels is: do you just start writing by the seat of your pants; do you outline or set up a story board; do you write significant scenes and then work on the in between stuff to tie it all together? Any and all suggestions/ideas will be helpful since I am a novice at this.

I am excited to begin this journey. I’m a member of a great critique group who I know will give me support and help me improve the writing as I go along. I am also very nervous. Those negative thoughts keep popping into my head saying this is a waste of time. It will never be published. However, how do I know it will never be published if I don’t try? Deep down I know I am supposed to write this book otherwise the urging I have inside about it would not be so strong.

So today is Day One of this adventure. Please comment with any insight you can give me. Periodically I will give updates on how the process is going. Thank you in advance for your support.

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Don’t Dwell On The Past – Look Ahead To The Future

2015 is done. There were good and bad times for me. My oldest grandchild got her driver’s license. My youngest had his first birthday. I received the news that another grandchild is on the way. My daughter got a teaching job she loves. My son got his Associates Degree and a job offer. The not so good times included an uncle and a cousin going to be with the Lord. My hot water tank sprung a leak. I found out I owed $400 to the IRS that I was not expecting.

I’m sure every one of you reading this can make your own list of events (good and bad) which took place in 2015. God has something to say to us about looking back:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”    Isaiah 43:18

God does not want us to focus on what might have been or the mistakes we’ve made in 2015. Instead He tells us to have a fresh look at what’s ahead:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”    Isaiah 43:19

Therefore, look at 2016 as a new start. God has plans for all of us. I’m not saying to expect everything to be rosy. We will still have our struggles. But we can prepare ourselves with a new vitality and hope of things to come from God.

Make it your New Year resolution to be more open to God’s leading for opportunities and to cling to Him during difficult times. It’s a new year, a fresh beginning. Make sure this resolution is one you will keep throughout all of 2016.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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