|Posted by Marianne Halbert on May 14, 2010 at 7:59 PM|
I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember.
Favorite author: Stephen King. For too many reasons to list in my first blog.
Favorite book: Watership Down. Because it speaks to who we are as different societies, and who we are as individuals operating within those societies. And because I like bunnies. Developed an entire novel I'm going to write someday just so I could have the word "rabbit" in the title. But seriously, it's an amazing novel. I don't read many novels twice, but that one's worth it.
A few years ago, I read two books back to back. Covers looked good. Bookjackets sounded intriguing. But the reads were disappointing. The characters were 2 dimensional cardboard characters. I knew nothing more on the last page than I did the first page about their motivations, who they were, or why I should care about them. There were typos all over the place. The resolutions of the stories were predictable and disappointing. I started thinking, "he should have made that character the villain, and this could be why..." or "that little tidbit in chapter three could've made a great red herring, but it went nowhere." I realized if I was going to waste time plotting out someone else's novel, I might as well spend time plotting my own.
I wrote a draft of my first novel (called, "Hear No Evil". The tagline was "The voices in your head are real - and the government is listening".) In my mind, it was awesome. I'd never taken a writing class, or spoken to another author, or gone to a writer's conference. But I was pretty sure it was AWESOME.
I stopped by a little independent bookstore called "The Mystery Company". I told the owner I'd written a novel, and didn't know what to do next. He told me about a critique group. Authors who met every other week, read each other's work, and critiqued and shaped it. So I showed up with my manuscript, prepared to wow them.
Boy, did I have a lot to learn!
I learned that my plot was awesome, and have subsequently earned the nickname of "The Plot Queen" among my peers. But I also learned I knew nothing about point of view (and I make it a personal goal to never again see "POV" written in the margins of the pages I pass out at critique group). I also needed work on secondary characters, avoiding info dumps, how to sprinkle in backstory, where to begin the story and so much more. That fist manuscript is now sitting in a drawer. Someday, I just might dust it off, apply what I've learned since, and give it a second go 'round.
My group encouraged me to write short stories. It's a great way to exercise different aspects of talent, play with different genres and points of view, and it's a quick fix when you have an idea you just have to get down on paper. Plus, when that day comes that you query an agent to represent your novel manuscript, it looks a lot better to have publishing credits. I remember thinking, I'm not a short story writer. But then a funny thing happened.
I read a nine word joke sentence in the paper. And this entire story unfolded in my head. I took my laptop when we went on a long weekend to a state park. After an exhausting day hiking, my little ones fell asleep. A few feet away, I opened my laptop, and the story flew off my fingertips.
I was in the zone.
The rush of having a completed short story was so different than the labor of love that is the novel. I sent it off to a local publisher, and two days later I got the call. They loved it. I've been a HUGE fan of writing the short story ever since.
So why do I write? Because I've always thought I could. Just never took the time. I'd read those two lame novels. And then my aunt Carol came for a visit, and shared some stories she'd written. Hers were autobiographical, but really moving. I knew if or when I wrote, it would be fiction. But I thought if she takes the time to do it, there's no reason I shouldn't. So I did. I write striving to capture moments of greatness, and confident I can do better than much of the stuff on the shelves these days. I love quirky characters, suspense, and mystery. I like gray characters who even I can't decide if I should love or hate them. I worry still about some of my characters. I challenge myself to come up with fresh ideas and unpredictable plots. The readers deserve it.
I've had five short stories published. Three more accepted and will be out soon. A few more written that I need to shop around, and about a dozen in my head I need to write. I've written a new novel (young adult teen/dog adventure) that I feel I can get published if I take the time to start querying agents. But for now, I feel blessed to have the opportunity, the creativity, and the support of my family to write, write, and write on.
Whether you are reading my fiction, something you love, or just plotting out your own life story, just keep turning the page. You never know what wonders await you. So get ready to wake up and smell the creepy.