Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

What is it like to write a second novel? What is it like to write novels at all?

My second novel is venturing into the world. I can’t say I’m surprised to be in this spot, because I’ve held being a professional novelist as a goal since I was twelve. (Thankfully, my writing has improved since then.) However, I didn’t foresee how long it would take for me to reach this point or what the experience would look like.

After writing my first published novel DEATH LOST DOMINION in about twelve self-destructive weeks (I was under an imposed deadline), I spent three years on THE WOMAN WHO SAW SOULS. When I want to begin a novel, I open myself to concept ideas. I look for an instance of life that intrigues me. This time the process began with a Facebook post that asked something like, “How differently would you treat people if you could see their souls?” I started wondering what would a regular person see, and how would it change the way he or she behaves? I didn’t realize how long it would take me to answer my question in the form of a story that I approved as believable and engaging.

Writing nonfiction is far easier for me, but not as much fun as fiction. It’s like writing for school, and I spent PLENTY of time in school. There are set rules of expository structure that become second nature. Writing my first novel, DEATH LOST DOMINION, so quickly took me into territories I probably would’ve avoided if I’d had a chance to be prudent. Perhaps the pressure suited the narrative. This time I couldn’t work that fast because I had to research my subject matter.

Recently, a quiz in Dr. Judith Orloff’s book The Empath’s Survival Guide certified me as a full-blown empath. When my spiritually aware friends read my new manuscript, they smirked as I protested that I know nothing about empaths or spirits. They said I know more than I realize. To finish this book, I needed all of my intuition and a good dose of their expertise and experience. (I cite a couple of my sources at the end of the book, but to cite them beforehand would be a spoiler.)

At any rate, as I began writing, I struggled to find my voice and feel my way through my story. My main character finally pushed me aside so she could tell her own tale, and other characters eventually followed her lead. They were right. What was happening was, of course, primarily coming from within them, from within their souls.

In the meantime, our family experienced a major tragedy—an unexpected death that was more than a simple passing. It was a hole blown into our family and the community, as well. I told myself I could write on—as you write on through so many papers in college whether or not your life is under control. But I had lost more than a person central to my life. I had lost my perspective on my work. My words danced around in mundane patterns to uneven beats. My writer friends stepped up to buoy me. When they offered comments, I nodded. “Of course!” wondering why I didn’t see the problem first. Without them, I would’ve quit.

When I write from all I know, I begin by writing what will be a shell of the final product. Most of the plot is there, as are most of the characters, but the work is thin, brittle, and uneven. Then I begin the rewrites. I try to build each scene—each chapter as I would in a screenplay. I write for pacing and contrast and personalities and transitions. I do what I can to perfect my word choices. And one day the end tells me what I’ve been writing about, so then I need to go back to see if I set the stage properly.

I don’t want to write the same book more than once, and I didn’t in the case of these two novels. THE WOMAN WHO SAW SOULS is a thriller/romance/ghost story/family drama. I hope my readers find my explorations entertaining. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or if you want to share your perspective. Like Charlotte in the novel, I believe we all work together.

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