Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WRITING A NOVEL: Step-by-step

I'm going to try something new that I have not seen done before.

As I write my next novel, I plan to blog the journey. The process has multiple layers, one that weaves a story with themes. It will be a view of how the process changes and evolves into the final story. The blog will not spoil the story but will give anyone interested a behind-the-scene look at writing a novel from beginning to end. I think it will be fun.

The initial working idea for the story is under way... My focus is always on the theme and giving the reader an enjoyable, emotional journey with a message of hope... something for the mind, heart, and soul.

These lyrics from a popular song are some of the first steps... Can you name that tune?

Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

The lyrics highlight the fact that we are searching for (truth, guidance) and it is already right under our noses. We walk by the truth (on subway walls and tenement halls) everyday and take no note but rather we construct elaborate gods and complicated idols to interpret a reality we are, by definition, already in tune with. The title itself seems to me to reflect that paradox.

They asked Him, “Why do you tell the people these stories?”

A good story that resonates with the reader speaks loudly with a soft touch. It is heard in the depths of the inner man.

10 The disciples came to Jesus and asked him, `Why do you tell the people these stories?' 11 Jesus answered them, `You can learn the secret things about the kingdom of heaven. But they cannot learn them. 12 Anyone who already has something will get more, and he will have plenty. But he who does not have anything, even the little that he has will be taken away from him. 13 That is why I tell them stories. They look, but they do not see. They listen, but they do not hear or understand. 14 They make what Isaiah the prophet said long ago, come true. `Isaiah said: "You will listen and listen, but you will not understand. You will look and look, but you will not see. 15 The hearts of these people have no feeling. They do not hear well with their ears. And they have shut their eyes. They do not want to see with their eyes. They do not want to hear with their ears. They do not want to understand in their hearts. They do not want to turn to me. If they did turn, I would heal them." 16 `God is blessing your eyes because they see. God is blessing your ears because they hear. 17 I tell you the truth. Many prophets and good men wanted to see what you see, but they did not see them. They wanted to hear what you hear, but they did not hear them. Matthew 13: 10-17

The first stage in the process of developing a story is found somewhere deep inside of the writer. Getting to that place takes time. As you follow this process, I will attempt to be honest and post it as it happens. In doing so, I’m almost certain that you will see how the end will look much different than where we begin. This is the mysterious/magical part of the writer’s journey that always amazes me.

As I begin, my initial thoughts are always mixed between themes and storyline. The storyline is like the train car where the passengers (readers) sit. The rails beneath the train are like the themes that carry the story to its destination. When the train gets off the rails, the story usually dies. I want the passengers to enjoy the scenery as they travel across the country, learn something as they go, and not be bored. The journey needs to have several twist and turns with the destination being more wonderful than the passenger’s could have ever imagined—filled with surprise and satisfaction.

Let’s begin…

Setting: I want this story to be set in the South. What better place than Alabama? What better city than Dothan? Write what you know. My initial thoughts are to create a story that is filled with familiarity for me and many of my readers—places they know, but tell them things they didn’t know about those places. As with my other stories, I set them in familiar places for me at the time they were written. I anticipated that one of my future stories would be set in the Deep South. The culture found in the South is one-of-a-kind.

Characters: The characters will be Southern. I am working on approximately a dozen characters for this story (more on that in later blogs). The names of the characters will be a critical part of the flavor. Each name will have meaning. For example: One character is named Ace. He is named ace because his mother delivered him in the back of an Ace Hardware store (you get the idea). Feel free to give me your favorite Southern names. Keep in mind that the storyline will have a humorous slant with serious undertones. The reason for this will be explained in later blogs.

I am debating on using some of the characters from the Flight Trilogy. For example: David Mitchell, Martha Mitchell, and Ronald Darby might be key characters with Ryan and Keri making cameo appearances. This would mean a scene or two in Buckhead. The story will be a stand-alone story but might expand on the lives of the characters from the trilogy books. This would give previous readers a deeper experience while encouraging new readers to read the trilogy to learn more about the characters in this book.

Themes: Theme development is always on-going. Some author’s actually develop themes during and after they write the first draft. I like to know the foundational themes before I begin. For this story, I feel strongly about writing a story that points the reader to the fact that listening is not the same as hearing. We only understand when we hear. Also, we often can’t see ourselves the way we are and miss out on life when we are motivated by something other than truth. Our sense of hearing is said to be the last sense to go. I witnessed this while I was the caregiver for my dying mother. I have heard similar stories from others who have been at the bedside of dying relatives.

Storyline: I can see several events in this story that will add a broad range of connectedness and emotional commitment for the reader: the birth of a baby (perhaps Martha and Ronald have a child); wedding; new relationship formed (perhaps David Mitchell meets a woman and falls in love); death (perhaps Keri or Ryan).

So as you can see, the process is rough in the beginning. It is like dumping a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle out on the table and searching for the boarder pieces. I also equate it to buying a piece of land with the intentions of building a house.

I look forward to sharing this process. In the interest of time, I do not intend on spending a lot of time editing these posts. Perhaps, my editor will read them and push me to correct any gross errors.

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