Getting it down on paper: Writing my first novel

I am working on my first novel. In fact, it has been about 4 years since my first draft. I had a unique idea for years about a story and playfully jotted down notes here and there smiling at the though of being a full-time novelist. A dream, I thought, nothing more.

Creating a mini screen play, partly because I majored in Media Studies in college and could literally “see” the story playing out in my mind, I gave the sample to my husband expecting praise for my ingenious and quirky masterpiece.

Why don’t you write a story instead of a screenplay?

I frowned, not expecting his response and stuttered out a lame, “I don’t know.”

Sensing my immediate sensitivity Peter explained the reason for his question, stating my concept was good and he could see where I was going, but it wasn’t me. He thought I was a better writer than the witty dialogue and shallow characters which filled the pages of my screenplay.

I could not bring myself to be angry at his response because deep down, I knew it was not my best work.

90% of it was pure garbage, but a tiny 10% had the potential to evolve into something big. Plus, I respected Peter’s opinion. He is the one person who knows and understands the creative vixen inside me and if he wasn’t thrilled about my story, I wanted to make it better.

Three drafts later, I am ecstatic at the evolution of my story.

So how did I get to this point?

Patience-I had to find the voice of each of my characters and did so by making a timeline of my story. Originally, I had a very small map, which has morphed into a detailed account of the characters’ lives over the span of one week. My map, combined with detailed bios about each character has proven invaluable during the creation of the story.

I let the characters speak for themselvesthis part was hard for me as I was discovering the voice of the characters. I wrote and rewrote their individual stories. I let them take on a life of their own and often found them talking to me during the day, thus confirming I have crazy writer in my blood.

I spoke to a writer I respected – It is so important to speak with someone who is a pro at the process. I heard novelist Travis Thrasher speak about writing at a local event and already a supporter of his novels, sought out a little advice. I am sure he thought I was crazy, but his advice was sound, sincere and humbling, which propelled me forward in the writing process. I encourage you to speak to an author face to face, if possible, as it is hard to convey passion through email at times.

I wrote elsewhere – When I trashed my screenplay and started the first draft of my novel, I made an effort to write everyday. After reading the book, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott (which my husband had purchased for me as inspiration to keep writing) I made writing a ritual and wrote everyday at 9 am for 15 minutes. It did not matter what I wrote, I just wrote about anything. If I was inspired to expand upon my novel, I did, but sometimes I wrote about my day. Fueled with post-pregnancy hormones, I was ripe with a range of emotions at the time, so I had plenty of material.

I had a person dear to me read my work – This was my husband, Peter, who is an artist and extremely passionate person. I valued his opinion and knew he would be brutally honest in his critique of my writing.

I took a break from writing my novel, but I didn’t stop writing – Again, when my brain shut down for a few months and my story came to a halt, I did not stop writing all together. I started a parenting blog called, Parenting Without A Parachute and am a contributing editor at All Things Girl. I started submitting work to guest post on sites like earlymama.com, thesavvyfreelancer.com, and foxvalleymom.com. I now create web copy for small businesses. So I am literally writing ALL THE TIME.

I read A LOT to get inspiredAnne Lamott, Crystal Alperin, Travis Thrasher, Jeff Goins to name a few…

Do you have a story inside you waiting to get out?

I hear people say they have an idea for a story or they have always wanted to write a book, but they never have the time. The exciting part is my story started with 15 minutes of dedicated writing time a day.

That is it. 15 minutes.

Once I embraced the passion inside my heart to write everyday, I opened the door to find Elizabeth the Writer, busting to get out!

Yes, there have been days when I am lying on the floor weeping with an empty mind void of all creative ability, but I do a few air punches, psyche myself up with a few motivational quotes and hit it again. And again! And again!

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10 thoughts on “Getting it down on paper: Writing my first novel

    • He is really an amazing man and so patient and supportive of a crazy woman like me! :) I can’t wait to read the finished piece, too!
      I am right at the tail end of cleaning things up and have been trudging along during this pregnancy. Once this baby comes I know I will be able to get motivated again to finish it. (Hormones have played a wonderful role in the emotion of the book…they are good for something!) Thanks for reading, Beth!

  1. So exciting that you are well on your path to achieving such a momentous dream! And I just love how you say it all happened with the small step of just dedicating 15 minutes a day to your dream…

    As you know persistence is a virtue that I hold dear – and your story is so inspiring to me.

    H xo

    • Thank you, Hana, for the kind and encouraging words. I think it is hard to be patient when you are building an idea or a business, so many people tend to give up. I am way too stubborn to give up on my passions now. Since I have invested so much time, I feel I am finally on fire for what I am supposed to be doing. Even if the results are little by little instead of a full out career!

      Plus, I like being at home with my babies and seeing them grow every day, you know?!

      E :)

  2. I didn’t realize you had a personal blog. (Doh!) I can’t wait to read your book, whenever the drafts are finally finished. I know how you feel–I’m finally starting hard-core on my writing journey as well, and I’m so glad I’m not putting it off anymore. Good luck! Let’s send each other good fiction writing vibes.

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