Adjusting from Non-fiction to a Novel

I began another blog here on WordPress under the name Rica Gold. The reason for that was that when I started it, I had just published my first book , which was in the non-fiction genre. Since my next book was a novel, I decided to use my name differently. I actually like the formatting of that blog much better than this one, but the choices when I began here were more limited it seemed. Maybe I just didn’t read it well. Anyway- perhaps I will write on both of them.

I am writing about the progression of writing as a first time novelist here. What I found, of course, was that writing the nonfiction book was far easier than attempting fiction. Adultery is Universal, But I’m Getting Married Anyway was both an experimental foray into the world of writing in addition to a desire to point out an issue that was omnipresent in our every day world and a resource book for both students in communication and psychology classes as well as professionals in the healing arts field. It was a little like writing a thesis for an advanced degree, something I already had done. I tried to make it more interesting for the reader by creating scenarios to illustrate various points (my first fiction attempt)  and readers reported liking that. An enormous amount of research had to be done to acquire a variety of statistics. The statistics validated my discussion and opened eyes, both mine and the reader’s, I surmise.

From time to time I’m asked why I wrote that book and my answer pretty much comes up the same all the time. We’re told to write what we know. As a Marriage, Family Therapist, an instructor on Family Communication and formerly in private practice as a counselor for twenty years, it was certainly something I knew about. It made sense. After a two-year program online with Mission Marketing Mentors, which helped me in all areas of marketing, I selected the title with the aim of attracting attention.

I started the book in 2010. I was ready to publish at the end of 2011. We used a 2012 publishing date. The book is still in use in classes today (December 2014), but people serious about the topic academically will want to update some of the stats.

Writing fiction however, has been a much longer process for me. I realize I began this book in late 2012 and I will submit it to the publisher next month (January, 2015). It’s actually ready now, but I still want to read it one more time, something I’m told authors have a knack for getting stuck doing endlessly. That won’t be me. I am too busy with the second book in the trilogy.

I hope you’ll bop in here from time to time  to see what I learned along the way. Thanks for reading.

Skye’s Enemy: Ryan Eddington

Ryan Eddington is a smooth talker, but a brutal adversary. Once he learns that Skye is to be kidnapped because of her ability to teleport, and sold to the renegades in Mohrkhavn, he’s excited about the challenge. His choice of assistants leaves something to be desired. While all are cruel amd self-serving, none of them is particularly bright.

Ryan does not trust any of them, even his main right-hand man, Deputy Reynolds.  Reynold’s burly cousin Gus makes mistake after mistake trying to prove his worth which adds both humor and levity to the grim scenes. Nevertheless, Eddington is not amused as he himself aspires to move up the criminal ladder and achieve greater power.

Of course every vilian has, if not redeeming characteristics, at least some softer, more human traits and Eddington is not without them. Especially when he takes to wooing someone who can get him closer to Skye. Ultimately he shows his hand though, which leads to a frightening confrontation.

Ryan is handsome, debonair, sophisticated when he needs to be, shrewd, clever, calculating, romantic, generous, and deceptive. If I had to picture his looks it would be something like Pierce Brosnan today.

What happens to Eddington? This is Book One of the trilogy, so we’ll see.

Starting the Story…

I started reading Al Watt’s book, the 90 Day Novel. If you’re not familiar he has you read a new entry every day for 90 days and then write. He provides a list of free writing – stream of consciousness questions to help you get going, not only on writing, but on thinking about what you plan (or don’t plan) to write. He’s very encouraging throughout the whole process, enabling you to feel like it’s alright if you don’t know where you’re going with the story. That was certainly my issue. His words helped me to trust my characters to begin leading the story line and amazingly, that really helped.

My antagonist was a nasty sociopath and once I gave him reign to go where he wanted, boy did he. By the third time he makes an entrance, he’s beating the heck out of two guys and not giving a damn about it. In fact, he likes it. My hero, Skye, begins to display fears and blocks she uses unconsciously to avoid taking chances and there in lies a dilemma, as she is thrust into circumstances that absolutely require decisions and well thought out ones, to avoid being hurt or even dying and yet, she relies on others to help her, lacking the confidence or courage to make moves herself. I started to know and like both characters better. It was exciting.

Often Al wrote that it was okay to write bady . The important thing was to write, a phrase echoed by other writers over and over. I would remind myself as I continued to remember that on days when I felt what I’d written was just kaka. So here on this blog I’ve decided to just write and not worry if a few mistakes are left in or if the prose isn’t scintillating.

Al says in his book not to let anyone read your work as you progress. I totally get that. People, even well-meaning people, are going to give you their impressions. Those opinions are not always helpful, in fact they can hold you back if not presented constructively or even if they are, you may wonder what on earth you are doing trying to write a novel…especially if you are like me with next to no training or classes to bolster your belief that you can do this. On the other hand, a critique group with at least some seasoned writers, can effectively  provide you with all kinds of beneficial feedback.

So do you share or not? I didn’t for most of the book, but once I started I was always improving my work. I’ve come to trust my colleagues and believe they have my best interests in mind so their help is invaluable to me now.

My first chapter opened up an area that the story line had to follow. That direction soon led to more characters, more directions and ideas for the story. I was off and running .

Discipline and Self-doubt…

When you aren’t sure at all what the story is about, it’s easy to feel perplexed about your intentions. Why am I writing a book anyway? Even after you get some ideas about the direction you’re taking, you have to stop and think of the bigger picture. Is there a moral? A message? What genre is this novel going to be in? What should I be researching? When I wrote non-fiction- I made an outline. I couldn’t do that yet with this book. How do you make an outline when you don’t have anything to put in it.? Self-doubt began to creep in. I tried to write every day. I had started doing it years ago. Someone in one if the online programs I had participated in said that the way he accomplished writing his books, was to write three pages every day- about whatever. (I think that was Dave Krueger, MD, a terrific mentor along the way and author of multple books). Then I had taken and afterwards facilitated classes online of The Artist’s Way – which I think everyone who is creative should do, buy the book or better still take a class, be in a group on it. The Artists Way reinforced the writing every three days concept, so I embraced that idea, and still do. Some days though, you feel immobile. Stuck on where to go next, or your head is consumed with everyday life or you’re just numbed out for whatever reason.There are days when you do not follow even your own discipline, and naturally days when you have to go to work, not go home, go somewhere else, so you miss writing that day. One day, can become many days. What worked for me was to write right after breakfast. I found myself to be the most mentally alert and the least challenged to do somethung else early in the morning. Someone told me that was because I was born in the morning. Haha. I don’t know if there is any data to support that. I wrote my three pages, sometimes it was a chapter, sometimes just ideas, but I did write. I set some target dates-when I would finish the first third, where the middle would fall and finally when I hoped to have it done. I was wrong on most estimates. The main thing was, I stayed involved with the process, the characters, and the evolving story. I enrolled in a sculpting class. I thought it would get my creative juices flowing. There was a tall, red headed woman in the class. She was stunning and drew attention from any male who wandered in. Right away I knew she had to be a character in Dimension Norraena. That was the beginning of Sassy Brassy.

Lead Character, Skye Winter…

Ahhhh… for a bit of sunshine. Actually the story is not dark and dreary, but I’m still getting the hang of WordPress and the templates available to me for the site.

Once the main character, Skylar, who goes by Skye to most, and the bad dude, Ryan, are introduced, some back story has to happen. The reader gets to see that Skye is a college instructor in the Theatre department at a community college in California. She has a crush on a recent addition to the departent, named Jake, who is the Technical Director. He is handsome and masculine and he has had an eye on Skye as well, but neither of them has made that known to the other.

Skye’s policy of not fraternizing with co-workers has kept them apart and we also see that while she is successful as both instructor and director of theatre productions, she is lonely and somewhat isolated living in the mountains by herself.

I tried to model Skye after someone I knew, but the more I wrote, the more I found that Skye had aspects of her character that were not similar to the person I was trying to model her after. I found myself just making up her characterisitics loosely based on what her childhood had been like. Although she had hardships growing up, Skye was bright and funny and had a happy countenance about her. She was pretty and much liked by students and those who actually got to know her better.

I also tried to picture an actress I could see as Skye as if this was a movie instead of book and then settled on Rachel McAdams as a blonde. I’ll put a photo of her here and hope it doesn’t take up the whole page, but it likely will. Sorry Rachel.

Picturing the Antagonist…

I didn’t give a lot of thought to the description of the antagonist. I didn’t have any guidelines, no mentor and no classes for information. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me to look for information online, let alone read anything specific about the topic. I just started writing.

I knew I needed a worthy opponent, although I didn’t know yet, what for. I decided to make him sociopathic. Why? Because I did have academic training and experience as a psychotherapist so I felt comfortable using my knowledge. I went to the DSM to bolster my understanding and I remembered a client from years ago who I counseled for a while. He was an international drug dealer who piloted his own plane as well. He would only give me a first name and no other information about himself.

My client was young, good-looking and extremely personable. He was intelligent and in good physical shape with a ready smile. He was charming and I never felt alarm talking with him.  I used this man as my model.

I belong to a writers club. One of the members spoke to the club about how she used images of well-known actors to enable more connection with her characters by picturing the artist. She even cut out photos of them from magazines and put them in a scrapbook. She wrote historical romance so she used paper dolls to create different dresses and clothing for the time period for her characters. I thought those were terrific ideas. I didn’t do that myself, but it helped me a lot to think of people I knew as fitting my image of the characters I was developing. That’s how Sassy Brassy entered the picture. (More on her later).

So Ryan Eddington, my villain, emerged. At first glance he seems like an alright kind of guy flawed only with a bit of a temper. Well more than a bit. We soon learn however, that while he has a boss, he also has men who work for him. One is in the military. One is a deputy sheriff.

I was ready now, to move into some back story and an event that heightens the action.