When I began writing my first fiction novel, I was motivated by a dare. And a deadline.
In 2018 I was part of a writing group. The leader of the group Lee Heinrich, an editor and publisher, placed an opportunity in front of us. “We will hold an author meet-and-greet in a few months. Those of you who have published books, choose one to showcase. Each author will have six minutes to read a portion of their book to the audience.”
At that point I had no published book. Just snippets of stories I created from entries in my journals. It felt like a dare. Family and friends had been telling me for years, “you should write a book about that.” I could tell a good story, but I wasn’t sure my writing was audience worthy.
I expressed my mixed emotions to Lee. She dared me, “Show me what you have. Get me a first chapter by next month’s meeting.”
A whole chapter in a month? A first chapter can’t be written without the whole story in mind and flushed out characters. Right? Is that possible in four weeks?
I went straight back to my office, dusted off the white board, and started to plan a novel. The characters had been swimming around in my head for decades. I would use them. My experiences and observations of family, which everyone was telling me to write, were there.
By the end of the week, I had a story of sisters who relied on each other even when life placed challenges in front of them. I now needed to build the characters. Who are they? What was the first tragedy they faced? How could they make it through?
The second week, I began to write. Ethel and Dianne Nash are sisters. Dianne is on her death bed.
Who is most affected? Dianne’s only child, Suzy, whose father previously died.
Who helps her through it? Her cousin Marie, Ethel’s daughter. Suzy’s mother by preparing for the inevitable. Family conversations about the memories.
Why was I doing this? The deadline stared me in the face. I needed to devote more hours to writing this. And most of all, I wanted to get the story on paper.
It was like magic. The characters became real. The story flow was making sense. A favorite quote from a writing course, Show Don’t Tell was my guiding light.
I sent the first chapter to Lee right before our group’s scheduled meeting. Her response was quick. “Wonderful book emerging. I love the way Marie’s is trying to understand death. Powerful.”
There it was. The new motivation to write. The reader.
After The Nash Sisters was published and sold, the reviews were very positive. Readers were moved by it. They couldn’t wait to read the next one.
Wow! I thought it was just me that loved these characters.