Saturday, January 9, 2016

From Reading to Writing

Before I became a writer, I was a reader. All writers are readers; it’s a prerequisite. I received my first training from the wall of YA books at our town library, and my hours of enjoyment only barely exceeded what I learned. The stories I chose were always about a strong female protagonist trying to figure out her place in the world. As I grew up, I never lost my love for reading. That love eventually led to my writing a novel myself, and all my books feature a resilient heroine on a path of self-discovery.

But when I started writing my first novel, I couldn’t shut up my inner-critic. “You can’t do this,” I’d tell myself. “You’re going to make a fool of yourself by trying.” It was a constant diatribe in my mind, until finally I got fed up. “Look,” I told myself. “You can spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince yourself that you can’t write a novel, or you can just write one.”
I chose option two.

I made a commitment to write 500 words a day. I stuck to that, and after a few months, I had my first draft. Yes, it needed a lot of revision, but it had potential. My first book, Following My Toes, eventually won the Indie Excellence Award for Chick Lit in 2008. It also got more than 20,000 paid downloads on Amazon.

Then, three and a half years ago, I got jury duty. This was two full-length novels and one novella after Following My Toes, and I’d become a writing/publishing junkie. As soon as I got on that jury, I started thinking about how I could use the experience for my next project. I also enjoyed watching the TV show Survivor, so I came up with the idea of a young woman who is embarrassed by her performance on a reality TV show, and gets jury duty when she comes home.

I fell in love with my main character, Robin, and after The Holdout was finished, I couldn’t just stop writing about her. So I wrote The Next Breath – and I used my years of theater training as inspiration, along with a lot of research about cystic fibrosis. But Robin’s story still didn’t feel finished, so I wrote The Standout . During that time I really enjoyed reading books like Gone Girl and Girl on a Train, so I decided to try my hand at writing a thriller. The joy in self-publishing is the freedom to experiment. If I read something that I really like, I can take a crack at writing something in the same genre. Of course, the story and the themes have to be my own; I wouldn’t have it any other way! But like I said, the most valuable writing lessons I’ve ever received have been from reading. When I read something that REALLY WORKS, I examine it, and then I use what I’ve learned in my own writing.

And learning has never been more fun!

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