How I Wrote My First Published Work: Unfaithful

Writing

“Write something from the point of view of an inanimate object.” That was the assignment in my intermediate creative writing class at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre. I’m not sure what writing muscle it was meant to flex, but Unfaithful was the result.

 

My teacher, Robin Van Eck, had given the assignment the day before. I don’t have much time to carve out for myself (I have to sneak away just to pee, and the people – the little Yates people – they always manage to find me mid-stream). But on this particular evening, after clearing the dinner table, I was struck with the idea of what to write. “Dolls and mannequins were cliché and had been done to death,” Robin had said. “Be original.”

 

So, what? Another toy? No, too similar to a doll. What would speak to me as a mother? A wife? And it hit me – along with the constant stream of beeps, chimes, and notifications. That damned cell phone….

An Affair with Smartphone

It was one of those divine moments that writer’s hope will strike them when they sit down, fingers to keyboard. At the kitchen island, I tapped furiously on my laptop while my husband did the dishes (yes, he does dishes…and laundry too). Miraculously, no one interrupted me, and it was done in one sitting – about 20 minutes. That doesn’t mean I didn’t edit it after – but for the most part it was done. I wish it was always like that…but it often isn’t. (click here for my post on writer’s block).

 

I brought my completed assignment to class the following week and sputtered, red-faced, as I read it aloud. Robin gave me a, “Wow”, and I gave her a, “Yeah? But what do I do with it?”

 

She directed me to A Place for Writers website. There I found In My Bed Magazine’s call for submissions for their “Sex and Magic” issue. I thought, “Not quite magic, but close…”, but figured it didn’t hurt to try, so I submitted it.

 

I was shocked when a few weeks later I received the acceptance! My first submission and I got an acceptance. Unheard of – and probably dumb luck – but I’ll take it.

 

All in all, I’m proud of this little piece. It really speaks to my disillusionment with how we ‘connect’ with each other these days, but yet are so disconnected. You can read Unfaithful by clicking here.

The Writing Process: Part One

3240695228_9745608164_z

BE AUTHENTIC

 

In a previous post, I told you how I got my idea for Unspeakable and went about pursuing my dream to (near) completion.

But how do you write a book?

Funny, I wish I knew.

You may think I’m being a bit of smart-ass, but honestly, I’m not sure that I really know how I got here. I look at the 340-plus pages of my manuscript, harrumph (yes, I harrumph), and shake my head in disbelief. How did I write a freaking book? It seems as mysterious to me today as it did before I took my first course.

But here’s what I do know:

 

  1. Write because you’re passionate about it.

Don’t write a book because you think it will make you famous or the next great Canadian/American novelist. It likely won’t. The stats on this matter are quite frightening. It should be your passion. If it isn’t, it will likely fall flat – no passion from the writer, no passion in the characters. On that note…

 

  1. Care about your characters.

When writing a novel, you should know your characters. Not just their name, hair color, who their friends are, etc. That stuff’s plastic. Go beyond the surface. If someone cuts in front of them in line, how would they react? What’s in their fridge? What was their family life like? What are their pet peeves? What motivates them? What pisses them off? Why? [For a great post from Writer’s Digest on The Top 10 Questions You Should Ask Your Characters, click here]

 

In depth character sketches go a long way in helping a writer learn about their characters. Knowing what makes your characters truly tick, will make your story hum with the vibration.

 

For more on creating characters, I recommend the book, Breathing Life Into Your Characters by Rachel Ballon.

BreathingLife
Rachel Ballon’s Breathing Life Into Your Characters

 

If you know of any other great books on creating characters, I’d love to hear about it! Leave your suggestions below.

In my next blog post, I will share two more strategies on how to get that book written…including, how to avoid the dreaded writer’s block…dun dun dun duuun!

How I Came to Write My Novel

Writing my novel

Since I was very young, I’ve always loved reading and wanted to grow up to be a writer. You would often find me with my nose in a book, reading into the wee hours of the night, using the pinpoint of red light from my waterbed heater control to illuminate each finely typed line, so as to not wake my sister.

My first experiences sharing my writing with others left me feeling embarrassed and self-conscious (the fault of the inner critique). Whenever my mother proudly stated to her friends that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, I saw placating smiles and schooled expressions. Isn’t that sweet? I felt ashamed that I had such fanciful pursuits – it felt as realistic as believing in the tooth fairy; and at eleven, I knew there was no tooth fairy.

Creative interests took a back seat to finding a secure career. I became a speech-language pathologist (SLP) over 15 years ago, and I currently practice with the pediatric population. I love what I do. To help families facilitate and improve their child’s communication, to connect with others, is often very gratifying.

Speech-Language Pathologists
Fellow SLPs at the Hanen More Than Words training workshop on November 18, 2014

But what of my childhood dream? Do I simply leave it in the background of my wants and desires, as something silly and unattainable?

If I don’t try, I am sure to fail.

I was inspired to pursue my dream to write once more when I realized I had no reason not to pursue writing any longer. I don’t need it as a career. I can do it just because I love it. What did I have to lose?

The idea

I was discussing books with a colleague in November 2012 and she mentioned that no one has ever written a book where the main protagonist is a speech-language pathologist (SLP) and sexy (her words, not mine). This got my wheels turning. What would a book like that look like? How could you develop a story where it was important that the main protagonist was an SLP?

The seed of the idea for Unspeakable was planted. And so, I started making notes. I came up with a premise, and characters and a plot and a subplot. Now what?

Work to do your best.

I took a course on novel writing at the University of British Columbia in early 2013, and then a creative writing course at the Alexandra Writers’ Centre that spring. I was then accepted into their yearlong novel course last year, where I completed my first draft. I had a few reviews from writers-in-residence programs, and did some rewrites. I then had a few beta readers read it over the summer, and did more rewrites. I sent it for a manuscript review with a local writer’s association – they told me it was good, but gave me few constructive things to work on (I waited 10 weeks for that one!)

 

Currently, it is in the hands of a professional editor that I hired. I now have to wait 14 weeks. So, if you’re following all of this, it took me 2 years to get to this point. From the seed, to the tree in it’s adolescence. Sure, there were long periods where I didn’t touch my manuscript. Namely the summer months, when I parent full-time with few moments to myself and those long periods of waiting…waiting for people to read it and give feedback. And so now I wait again, and I write about other things. This blog mainly, and there is another seed. It’s germinating. I just need to plant it.