Monday, August 25, 2008

Stepping Stones to Success

Every novel I write is not just an accomplishment, a feat mastered, it’s a stepping-stone to becoming a published author. Will I consider myself successful if I don’t publish? Nope. Look at all the records the Patriots broke last year. Did any of that matter without a Super Bowl win, the ultimate prize, proof of domination and unmatched excellence? Hardly. Yes, as an artist, there’s a part of me that writes for myself, for the need, the trial and error and pure exhilaration. The first novel I wrote was all for me, to see if I could do it. I was driven to try. Now I write with the reader in mind. For me, publication is the ultimate validation. That is my goal. It will prove to me my work has worth and merit, that it's good.

When I wrote my first novel, my plotline and characters came easily. I wanted to have a young man and woman who knew each other in childhood and met again and still carried a deep connection without them fully understanding why. I also wanted to have a black market kidnapping scheme and corporate theft with my female lead tied to all three strings. I whizzed through that book, experiencing the entire emotional journey, every happy moment, every heartbreak. It was an incredible rush. One scene flowed into another, and I was amazed at some of the scenes I'd written. I refused to shy away from grit or darkness or tenderness. Even now, I look at it and think, Wow. I wrote that? That’s pretty good, especially for a first try. This my baby. I did it. Some of the pieces are excellent actually, so funny and sweet or utterly tragic, but in its entirety it’s weak.

Although there are many minor problems with that work, the main flaw lies in my main story question, which is answered slightly before the climax. In order for a work to be as gripping as possible, that question needs to be sustained as long as possible. So, as that work stands, even though I don't see it as publishable, I consider it a great effort because I birthed it out of passion, fell in love with my characters and finished it.

Then, I wasn’t sure if I had another novel in me, but this love triangle kept somersaulting in my head: a teenage girl and her two male best friends. The girl came to me as Majesty, manager of her high school's baseball team, crushing on one of best buds, with the other one liking her. That’s all I knew, but I’m not really into romance novels. I wanted a broader plot but didn’t have a concept. One night I dreamt I was running in the woods, for exercise not fear, and I overheard this plot for mass murder. The two conspirators heard me and chased me to this town where I was able to evade them. In that dream I’d found the basis for my plot and the setting for my book.

Out of that tiny seed, I was able to place my love triangle into a twisty, tightly plotted ride with suspense, mystery, baseball, family drama, friendship, action, adventure, violence, weirdness and redemption. I’m proud of this work. I think it’s really good. It's the kind of novel I like to read and readers on Amazon do too, saying they prefer works that don't sacrifice character for plot.

I stretch to keep getting better and better with each work, to experiment with things, go darker and edgier or in uncomfortable directions, maybe add more description and see if it works, sharpen dialogue, and find much stranger villains. I love growing, learning and challenging myself. My third endeavor has been more of a struggle to write because the darker subject matter is not always easy for me to delve into, but I feel this book inside me wanting to get out. It needs to be told, and for whatever reason, I’ve been called to tell it. That’s the journey of a writer. To feel this urge inside and just go with it and pen the words. I can’t help but to write now. A writer pure and true, from flesh to soul, is what I know I am, but I really want the solid, bound book in my hands, to smell and flip through the pages, to prove it to all the world.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

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