At “5 o’clock in the mornings”

No longer are his pages “blank.” Now he has a novel stuffed with his own text. This Instagrammer and blogger is now a published author himself:

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About 7 months ago, I had an idea for a book that seemed to come out of nowhere. Always how it goes, right? It’s a deeply fleeting tale that was one of the most enjoyable pieces I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing. After completing a rough draft I was fortunate enough to be able to try some of the material out on a true writer’s audience. A fantastic wordsmith and motivational professor by the Instaname of @bingbangbooks had invited me to a literary get together last October and it helped to remind me why it is that us writers do this in the first place: the passion, shared knowledge, and acquired dreamscape timeshare to worlds of both fiction and non. Being around here, in this community of imaginative writers, photographers, travelers, and filmmakers has also provided a tremendous spark of inspiration to help me see my debut novel come to fruition. It was plenty enjoyable to write and compile, so I hope that all of you enjoy it. The Dioramist is now available to purchase on Amazon, check out the link in my profile! #################################

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I commented to him: “Well done. It’s a huge step to move from avid reader to actual author – from essentially ‘critic’ to being ‘critiqued.’ But there is nothing like being a ‘creator’.”

Whenever I see a post on someone reflecting on a first book, writing my first one comes back to my mind. I may ask myself how I believe I have “done” in my efforts since it appeared (slightly more than four years ago now). I feel I am getting better with each successive book.

And which is my favorite? I can’t honestly say I have a favorite. They are ALL favorites for different reasons.

In my two previous posts – on writing about writing about the French and the British (of the 1700s) – you saw excerpts from all of them. I’ve always liked offering “tasters” here, but never any that are major storyline giveaways or which ruin a twist or even a “surprise.” In all of the books is also lots of writing about which I am quite proud.

[Excerpt from Distances. Paperback. Click to expand.]

That above isn’t reproduced necessarily because it is a sample of (to my mind) that sort of writing. I point to it because I will always remember that talk in his Newport, Rhode Island study with my (now late) uncle. Eventually I fit it into the third book: Distances.

Back then, in some awe at what he did, I wanted to write books the way he did. But I had only vague ideas about what I thought I could feasibly actually write about. However, one thing I did know for sure was I felt I could not write anything like he wrote: gritty police and crime fiction sourced from his previous decades as a police officer and a detective.

I went home at the end of that visit… and life moved on.

[My desk in the Catskills. Photo by me, 2015.]

In the back of my mind, though, I never stopped wanting to try to write a novel. But I didn’t apply myself to attempting to do so until 2012, nearly two decades after that chat with him. At “5 o’clock in the mornings” thinking and typing sessions at my PC over in the Catskills, in upstate New York, I began outlining and producing a travel/students/Europe/romance story…

…And for at least a couple of months I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. I was tremendously self-conscious and unsure of myself: no one wants to be a “laughing stock.” So I wanted to keep the effort a secret in case it all came to nothing.

But as I got going I also remembered my uncle’s words those years before: lots of fiction comes from fact. In that he meant not just mining what you or others have actually done for real, but also writing as if what is invented is itself fact. The two should meld together and take on a life all their own in the work.

“Okay, friends, so what are we going to do today?” was another thing he used to ask himself about his fictional characters as he started writing each day, and I adopted that mantra with enthusiasm. Over those weeks my initial tentative paragraphs progressed into pages, and then into more confident dozens of pages, and then whole chapters, and at last it started to take the shape of an actual recognizable manuscript that I sensed I could actually complete. Reaching that point, I finally felt I could tell a few of those around me what I’d been doing.

About a year after I had begun it, the finished product was Passports.

[My novels so far.]

So if you wish to write, but feel uncomfortable and even embarrassed in making the effort, don’t think you are alone in that. It goes with the territory. There is no one-size-fits-all way to do this; we all have to approach writing from our own unique starting points and then write in our own ways.

A word of warning, too: once you have completed a first book, you will feel impelled to try to better it. You will probably never be totally satisfied with anything you write. Upon finishing the current novel you will already find yourself thinking about the next one.

Have a good day, wherever you are in the world. 🙂

2 replies »

  1. I strongly believe that the positive way you and I have experienced writing is normal, and how it should be regarded (not in the negative, suffering-in-the-garret way that most people – many writers included – seem to think the experience ought to be). The psychology of writing is fascinating: it’s a truly therapeutic activity – cathartic, exhilarating, educational – that should be, in some form, a part of every person’s life.

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