Observations on Writing a Novel

Woman freelancer female hands with pen writing on notebook at home or office.

Yesterday I had one of those days in which my routine was all knocked into a cocked hat. After I got out of bed, I had to be off about business ASAP, and wasn’t able to ease into my day in my usual leisurely manner.  I’m not complaining, because I think that an occasional shake-up is good for me. However, I do very much miss it when I’m unable to do my crossword puzzle. Usually, I get up, go through the usual beautification process, then make breakfast and spend a leisurely hour drinking coffee and working the crossword. Afterwards, my brain is lubricated, I am overflowing with words, and ready to write.

“Writer’s block” is not really a thing. If you’re stuck, put something down, some reminder, or thought, a place-filler, or just a blank. Recently I read about an author who writes the word “bagel” when he can’t think of anything else. This allows him to keep moving. He can always go back and find the perfect term later. Believe me, even Shakespeare’s first draft looked like the dog’s dinner.  I live by this philosophy, especially lately, since I am not only not bringing my A game when I sit down to write, I’m not even up to my W game. But you must plug on. Later, after you have something to work with, you rewrite, and then you go back and do it again. And again. I think that most authors are never really satisfied with what they’ve created.  As for me, I’ll tinker with a book until I absolutely have to turn it in for the last time. Years after the book is published, I’ll find myself coming up with fresh ideas for a scene and wishing I could go back and work on it some more.

I once read an essay that postulated that a person’s thinking patterns might be formed by the geography of the place he grew up. I don’t know if that is true. However, I have observed that people are happier in some places than others, possibly due to where they were reared.  My husband was raised on the wide-open Great Plains, and becomes claustrophobic in  heavily wooded country. A friend from the Ozark Mountains once told me that she loves the woods. She feels protected and secure in wooded country, and exposed and vulnerable on a treeless plain. Many a city-raised person is disoriented in the wilderness, and vice-versa for someone who grew up in the country. It’s what you’re familiar with, I suppose. I read a piece in the newspaper several years ago about an unusually long period of sunshine in Iceland, which is normally has cloud cover for some 300 days a year. An interviewee said that the clear sky was nice at first, but after a week, she was beginning to feel nervous and unhappy. I’m sure there is a story idea lurking in there somewhere.

If I’m going to spend two or three days of my life reading a novel, I would prefer to like at least some of the characters. I try not to spend too much time with real-world people I dislike, after all. I once read a well-known book by a Very Famous Author and found the mystery  quite interesting and the writing excellent.  Very Famous Author really knew how to invoke a setting and construct a plot.  The characters were well drawn, but they were all so unpleasant that even though I really wanted to know how the story turned out, I had trouble finishing the book. I finally skimmed through just enough to get the gist and then read the end. I take a lesson from this experience and try to create characters who the readers will enjoy spending time with. Not to say that all the characters should be nice. Where’s the fun in that? I do enjoy seeing evil people get their comeuppance.