The Procrastinator’s Guide to Writing a Novel

Procrastinator's Guide blog pic

Since I came out of the novel-writing closet on my blog last week, several people have asked how I got into writing and how I have managed to write while still raising a big family and keeping such a clean house. (Well, the family part is true…I added the clean house bit). One reader even told me that I had inspired her to start writing. Wow. Apparently, thanks to the new-fangled world of blogging, a person like me can post some words they’ve cooked up in their pajamas on a sleepless night, onto a colorful website and people actually to read it. Maybe even like it (so I’ve been told).

So, before I begin more chapter revisions today to send to my editor, I’d like to share my tried-and-true method of writing a novel. I may have to get up and watch a segment of the Dr. Phil show while I do this, right after I check my Google + feed. Rest assured, though, I will write this for you.Today.

Imagine a story idea and ponder it for years.

Make some people up.Then, bounce them around in your head for,say, years.Give yourself plenty of time to flesh out their lives.What’s the rush? My story idea came to me when my twins were infants. I had a lot of sleepless nights with them that resulted in my losing touch with reality in the dark. It’s amazing the places your imagination can go while you rock one sleepless baby in your arms, and another one in his infant seat, all the while staring at a clown mobile by night-light. My made-up people became my friends during those nights, and I’ve mulled them over for about 10 years now.

Write down story ideas as soon as they come to you.

Write those suckers down on receipts and outsides of envelopes in your car, then put them in your pocket. Go about your business for the rest of the day, and forget about those epiphanies until they crumble out of the dryer in mushed up white chunks of paper. Promise yourself you’ll get a notebook the next day. And when your next idea materializes, you’ll have a book to record it in before it fizzles. If you remember where you put it.

Read lots of books.

Read books by your favorite authors. As you enjoy their genius, pick apart everything you read and get ideas on style, structure, imagery, and voice. What will you borrow for your own writing? What can you write so much better in your own work? Jot down ideas as you go. Retrieve them later from the lint screen when you need inspiration while you write.

Find a writing coach or mentor.

Join a writing group or class, and try to meet someone more experienced in the writing business than you are. Pick their brain, ask them for advice and feedback. I went with a writing coach named Wayne Smith. You pay them to critique what you write, coach you on how to write your best, and most of all, to motivate you with deadlines to achieve your goal of becoming a published author. Wayne does all of these things so well, I sometimes have a hard time shaking him.

Write.

Type your first chapter. Read it. Re-write it, word by word. Do this for several weeks, very sporadically. Then buy a bottle of wine.

Ignore emails from your writing coach

and

Drink the wine.

Start a blog.

Tapping out chapters on the keyboard of your lap top alone in your dining room is fun and all, but there isn’t much in the way of feedback during this process. Start a blog to test the waters for your writing. Seek out someone, anyone, who might want to read what you can do. Blogs are a wonderful playground for writers to hone their craft, find an audience, and also for them to get bewitched into the time-sucking online abyss, known as: social media.

Get active on social media.

Join it all: Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, whatever else there is in that moment. Promote yourself by interacting with others on the networks.  Make sure you comment and share at least 10 others’ links or posts times on each one, but make sure you have enough time in your day to write posts for your blog. You know, the blog that is building your audience for your novel. Oh, and before you share the newest-most-unbelievable-puppy-baby-video with your followers, open the document for the latest newest chapter-in-progress of your novel.

Remember the novel, right?

Look it over, and maybe even read some sentences.

Say to yourself, “I actually wrote that? It’s pretty good.”  But, it ends right before your protagonist teeters over a cliff in the wrecked car that was sabotaged by his ex-girlfriend, and you need to find out what happens. Here’s what you do next:

Write.

There may be other steps, but I can’t think right now.  It’s too early for wine. I need a little snack. I wonder if there are any Cheez-its left…

 

 

 

 

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Our Multicultural Easter Sunday

Having fun capturing memories.

Having fun capturing memories.

Easter Sunday began with bursts of sunshine popping into our bedroom windows early in the morning.  Birds chirped all around our house, and the Azaleas looked fresher than they had the day before. It was the beginning of a day of Christian renewal and affirmation of life, and of nature’s renewal, with the shrubs fluttering with newborn creatures, at the cusp of life.  It was also a day of Easter baskets, egg hunts, and a long-awaited reunion family hangout time.  Easter for us was a time to relive family memories and renew our ties that can loosen over miles and years.

My sister-in-law is here!  After six years, Leena has come here from South Africa for a short stay.  She’s the only sister, and was married and stayed in South Africa when the rest of their family emigrated from there.  She lost her husband last fall, just one day after I lost my brother, so her trip here is very special to me, because we all are sharing in healing.  She’s a hoot and these rare visits are so cherished.  Our son was home from college, as well.  So, both sides of our family got to spend the day together, over a spicy Indian brunch at my in-laws’ house, and then over a Mexican spread at our house that my mom and I prepared.  I love me some southern cooking, but after years of marriage, even I crave spice in my meals most of the time!

Nick and Dharmesh

I love being around these two brothers and their sister.  They swap memories of a childhood so unfamiliar to me, and I feel like I’m glimpsing history as I listen.  In between joking with each other in different languages, journey back their Apartheid life, something this white girl cannot even fathom in real life.  My father-in-law went to school with men who are important public figures who were instrumental in the demise of Apartheid, and the siblings took part in a volatile march against Apartheid in the 1980s, and were lucky enough to escape the beatings that many of their fellow students endured.  I silently reflected that while they were marching, I was passing notes in middle school and worrying about nothing more than getting the latest Cindy Lauper album for my birthday.

But, as we sat around the table of our suburban house, in our manicured suburban neighborhood, where kids play freely in the streets, our worlds blended. Our kids have the privilege of close connections to events that most other American kids learn about in books.  And I think everyone enjoyed just sharing with each other in the here and now.  They have memories of good and bad times that bonded forever so tightly, and I hope that spending that Easter day together is a renewal of hopes for the future, as well.  The good time we had is etched in my memory and I hope that when we are all parted again, everyone else will carry that memory with them as well.

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Happy Easter!

This was waiting for us when we woke up this morning!

Hope everyone enjoys a fun Easter with family, friends, and some goodies today! Chase easter basket

 

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A Coffee, A Flirt, and Secret Friends: Writing My Novel

laptop

I struggle to see my laptop screen, and I’m sweating in the sun wrapping around me through the glass wall at Starbucks.  A couple of women in tennis skirts are sitting at the table beside me, gossiping about booster club politics and a friend, whose teenage son was busted for drinking.  I recognize them from one sports team or another.  Or maybe it’s “meet-and-greet” at school last fall.  It doesn’t matter.  They are part of the mom collective around here.  They all blend.

“Do you think he’ll lose his scholarship?”

“I don’t know, but if he were my son…”

“Well, look at the role models he had.  His parents gave him no limits…”

Gag.

Wishing I had some earbuds to block out the jabber, I keep my eyes fixed on the screen.  I’ve only just recently gotten up the courage to set up writing shop here, out in public, for prying eyes to see.  I loathe the isolation of writing in my office, and at long last, I’m out of the closet.  Inhaling the sweet, bitter aroma around me, I focus myself.

I am an author.

Unpublished, yes.  Aspiring, no.

I don’t aspire.  I do.

As I type, I feel the eyes of my local admirer on me from his usual corner.  He’s a handsome black man, with silver hair, and warm eyes.  A fixture here.  The first time I saw him, I was waiting for my caramel macchiato at the counter and he came up to me out of the blue.

“I’m Jerry.  How are you?”

“Good, how are you?”  Where is that coffee?

“I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you are.  It’s a pleasure to see you here every morning.”

Forcing my mouth closed, and willing the flush away from my cheeks, I smiled politely.

“Um, thank you.”

What else could I say?  I’m a mom.  This sort of things doesn’t happen to me.  Ever.

He nodded and walked back to his chair in the corner, and went back to his paper.

Weird.  But pretty cool.

We still don’t know each other, but I say hello to him every morning now.  And wonder what his story might be.  But, I don’t ask.  He nods from his corner, shaded from the sun, and goes back to his paper with a smile.

So, without looking up at Jerry, I sip my drink and work on my novel.  Over the past two years, I’ve meandered through this story, getting to know my characters and discovering their lives in secrecy.  Soccer mom by day, fatigued wordsmith by night.

Jennifer, I wrote her into existence, and she is now a person in my life.  She is prettier than I, more wounded than I, and the sheer thought of my daily visits with her ever ending make me sad.

And Roshan.  Oh, my Roshan.  He was born from the taps on my keyboard, but really already existed long before that.  He teeters on the edge of two worlds and of sanity, and I want to save him, but I don’t know if I can.

And now, they stare back at me from the screen, pleading for me to pull them out into the light. They are about…

Saris. Fast cars. Sandalwood paste. Jack Daniels.

They are raw. They are real…to me only.  But not for long.

I keep my fingers tapping, polishing their world, crawling to the finish line carefully.  The sun has faded to a late morning glow, and the Jerry-the-man-in-the-corner is talking politics with a guy dressed in sweats and reading glasses hanging from his neck.  Neither one of them is drinking coffee.

Soon I’ll have to pack up and volunteer for center time at school.  I will close my laptop and Jennifer and Roshan will go back into hiding.  I’ll go back to quizzing spelling words and driving to soccer practice in the bright, setting sun.  Until one day soon,  neither they, nor I, will hide again.

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