Tuesday, October 13, 2015

FIVE REASONS I LOVE WRITING NOVELS

I've recently released my second novel, The Lies We Keep, and have been thinking a lot about why I love writing novels so much.  The amount of time, years actually, that it takes to write a novel is daunting to think about, yet I love it.  Here's five reasons why I can't wait to get started on my next.


  1. Feeling Free -- To many this is a romantic notion, and in some ways that's true, but who doesn't need a little romance in their life?  For me, writing is a bit romantic, you're meeting up with characters you've just met and getting to know them, seducing them in a way, to bear their untold truths and expose the deepest parts of their souls.  In writing, I'm free to ask whatever questions I like, peak inside other worlds I might never know otherwise…and in doing so, I feel free.  For an hour or even for several hours, I escape inside the story, away from the everyday constraints of life and like flying away with Peter Pan, I am free to travel into worlds I've created from scratch, to see what will happen next.  As a writer, it's my job to find that place
    inside myself, where I feel free to listen to the voices of my characters, build stories from deep within my writer's soul, free to ponder ideas I wouldn't necessarily think about in my everyday life.  Freeing myself to be curious, to create, to invent entire worlds where life can be examined and morals tested through a narrative filled with  characters and settings I construct from that place inside where I feel open and free.   
  2. Daydreaming -- In the 4th grade, I remember my teacher stopping by the side of my desk and telling me to stop daydreaming.  I was caught, and of course went back to my studies right away, but luckily that part of my inner child wasn't shut down completely.  Sure, I learned where and when I could get away with daydreaming back then, but later in life, I realized my ability to dream about things, to make up stories and characters -- was exactly what I needed to be a writer.  With writing, daydreaming is a necessary ability.  To be able to lean back in my chair, glance out the window at the beautiful Autumn leaves and drift off into another world, a dreamland, is absolutely necessary for a writer.  I love losing myself into that place where I allow my mind to visualize other places and people so different from my own state of being.  It's as if I'm watching a movie, glancing at an imaginary screen before me.  That's far more advanced than the 4th grade…and I'm no longer concerned if anyone catches me.  Daydreaming allows me to always be writing.  Even when I'm busy doing other things.  I've written entire scenes in my head while folding laundry.  The ability to let myself daydream is a very keen way to get my work done while I'm busy living my life.  At the checkout counter, I might wonder about where my story should be set.  Or at dinner, I might glance around the restaurant making mental notes, or at a stadium, watching spectators or referees or coaches, I'm always examining their mannerisms, tone of voice, expressions and body language.  Daydreaming isn't just a luxury for me, it's a skill I use for writing.  
  3. Learning -- I love to research.  This is where I learn about my character's worlds, their motivations, what they do for a living, how they contracted that disease, why they ended up in trouble, what they studied in school, how to do their job, where they live, their hobbies, what they believe in, the way they love, if they are capable of hate.  In the process of reading and digging, and visiting places, the characters take form and become real to me.  By going deeper, oftentimes the story takes a surprising turn creating a twist in the plot that I didn't even see coming.  In doing research, building a plot, creating characters and propelling the story into action -- I also learn so much about my own motivations, what I would do in the same situation, and what I would never, ever do.  Even when I'm not researching, I'm still reading.  I'm a reader first and a writer second.  I have my favorite authors like anyone else, always waiting for their next release.  I've stood in line to get my books signed, completely tongue-tied when it comes time to speak with them.  Reading for pleasure is something I discovered very young in life and it's always been the way I learn the most.  Reading makes for better writing, everyone has heard that one, but it's true.  If you're not reading, you're not learning to write.  Reading the perfectly constructed sentence, a beautifully written scene, dialogue so real it makes me feel like I'm eavesdropping or when an author dazzles me, captures my imagination, touches my heart, takes me somewhere I've never been, shows me a character's humanity -- I'm learning and growing as a writer and a person.  And I love to learn.    
  4. Exploring -- In my other life, I'm certain I was an explorer, like Christopher Columbus or more likely, a Viking (I'm half Norwegian), not the angry type of Viking we all picture, more like the friendly ship's cook instead.  As half-Viking (I like how that sounds), it's in my blood to explore.  I cannot pass a street I've never been down more than a few times before finally making the turn to discover what's there.  This is a good thing, since I move so often, I love to discover new places and have little trouble with change.  I'm very adaptable to new environments.  I also have an innate curiosity about what's around the corner, over the hill, a few states over, across the border or oceans, even out beyond the universe.  I love to travel, learn about other cultures, religions, customs…who, what, where, when, why and how…always why?  In writing, I can travel anywhere inside my mind.  I can explore the world, set my narrative sail to wherever I want to go, and with research (see #3) I can find all the answers I need to help guide my exploration.  But even better, I often find myself climbing aboard trains and planes, or hitting the road by car to see and experience the places I'm writing about, even if I've already been there before.  I sometimes need to walk along the same pathways of my characters, see what they see, feel the breeze against my face too, touch the soil, taste the food, listen for the subtle intonations of the way people speak, absorb the true essence of the place, all so I can better understand my characters and their story.  I love to explore and find this aspect of writing most fascinating.
  5. Sharing -- There is nothing more gratifying in life than to share a gift with others.  The look on a child's face when you hand them a simple red balloon.  To me, that's what sharing my writing is all about.  I'm handing someone a shiny balloon, one that took hours and hours to fill with air, and my dream is that the balloon will touch their heart in some way.  After my first novel, Restoration was published, I met with several book clubs and listened to stories from readers about their own experiences with the central theme of the story, about love and loss.  One night, a reader shared her story of losing her first husband to cancer with the group.  She talked openly about her sadness she felt after her husband died, and how she met her current husband through a grief support group.  They'd all known her and her husband for years, but none of them knew she had been married before or that she was a widow.  She hadn't been able to talk about it before.  But, as she said, the book helped her in some way and she finally felt comfortable to share her story with the group.  Wow.  Right?  I realized in that moment, how powerful stories can be.  I'd felt that way before.  How a simple line in a novel had made me think about my own life and what I might need to change or do or say or feel to make things better.  Everyone has read a book that stayed with them for a long time, sometimes fiction, other times a memoir or a self-help book, even reading about history and what our forefathers went through can touch our souls.  Words are a special gift and carefully crafted they can touch the reader's heart, make us wonder, or dream, or even hope.  The greatest joy in sharing my novels with the public is when someone writes to me about how the story or characters or setting touched them in some way, how it made them feel.  I love the idea of readers and authors coming together as a community, sharing their thoughts, their stories, their hearts and their souls.  The act of sharing my words with others is what I love about writing novels most of all.    

My Life On The Lane is all about words and writing and novels and sharing these days, and I've never been happier with being an author.