Monday, December 28, 2009

Pre-teen dreams--the beginning of my journey

How long have I wanted to be a writer? I remember talking with a guy (C. J.) in my 5th-grade class about writing a book together—so 10 or 11 years old. If we picked a genre, I don’t remember it, and my family moved away within a year. We didn't get to write together, but I never forgot the plan or his name.
I was living in Mobile, AL at the time, specifically Tillmans Corner
As a teen, I played around at writing. I enjoyed writing creative book reports and journal entries and became a voracious reader. I started several stories for my friends to read and rave over, but I always got stuck after character set up. With limited experience I had no idea what to write about, so I continued to wait for brilliance to strike.

The college years finally brought me into life. Before I had been a bookworm with straight A’s, now I learned how to “hang out” with friends and be silly. This was the time in my life where I learned to be comfortable with myself and the beliefs and values I had chosen. During this time I only wrote what was required by my professors and concentrated on having fun.

Marriage, children, a near-death experience and years of deep depression brought me more experience, perhaps more than I wanted before my thirties. Through it all, I remembered a name and a dream from my youth. In the darkest days of my depression, I started to write again. I wrote for myself and no one else. Writing became my lifeline, my reason to hold on and get out of bed each morning. I spent three years battling the depression while trying to raise my children and hold my marriage together. Lots of prayers, writing, and sending my husband to grad school finally brought our family and myself into the light once more. We began to feel hope and see a glimmer of light in our future.

My one hundred and ten page manuscript stayed with me, in a drawer, unfinished and awful. I knew it was bad and I didn't know how the story ended, but I was totally enamored with the idea and could not throw it away. So, it waited another two years. Every once in a while I'd pull it out, read it, change a few things and then put it away again. Finally, I handed it over to another friend and asked for help. It was still unfinished, with huge plot holes throughout, and dialogue that made me want to gag. I was stuck and looking for outside eyes to tell me how horrible it really was so I could finally put it in its grave.

He kept it for six months. When I got it back all he said was, “I like it, you should finish it. The only thing I didn’t like was some of your characters' names.”

Now that may not seem like a lot of help, but it started me thinking. I didn't know which names he didn't like, but I looked at all of them in a new light and realized something important. Names have a huge impact on your character’s personality. I decided my main female character,  Elyzbeth, was too young and soft to be my heroine. Like teen me, she just didn't have enough experience or strength to accomplish what I needed her too.

So, I killed her parents, made her fifteen years older, gave her a career and life experience, and the independence to save herself and her world. Now I needed to find a new name to go with the new and improved history. It took a while but after conducting a poll of family and friends I found it and Talia became a reality. The seemingly small change of name and age had far-reaching consequences—all for the best. Suddenly, my MC had new strength and attitude that I respected. She was capable of doing great things as well as understanding deeper emotions.

I still didn't know how my story ended when I found a college friend on Facebook. When I asked her the standard “what are you up to these days?” she informed me she was preparing for NaNoWriMo. Nano what? National Novel Writing Month was starting November 1st. This is a website/online community that encourages writers to lock away the inner editor and let the creative side push them to write a 50,000 word original novel between November 1st and November 30th. It sounded like what I needed, a deadline.

To be continued...