Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age.
I’m going to keep the intro short today as we have a Guest Post from Catherine Larose which I’m so excited about! If you’d like to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
First the confession…I didn’t start out to write a book. I didn’t sit down and think, “I have a book in me,” or “I want to be published.” I know it sounds a bit strange but the book wrote itself. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it psychography – that’s a bit far-fetched even for me, but I started jotting down lines, phrases, paragraphs and pages during a time of inner turmoil.
I had just finished a short-lived but intense love affair in Italy. I was bereft and confused. I had lost more than a lover; I had lost a friend. Weeping didn’t help, so I took solace in words. And while sitting in the Café Audace in the Piazza Unita in Trieste, I wrote three pages that became the basis for my book: Any Color but Beige.
I submitted a story called Between Marriage and Menopause to More magazine’s e-zine. After reading this article, a friend asked, “Is this going to be a book?” The thought hadn’t even occurred to me. But once she said it, I was intrigued. Should I do it? After all, I had nothing else better to do than nurse a broken heart. I figured it would be good therapy.
And so every night after work, for six months, I wrote from 19h to 23h. I would put on some instrumental music and begin. The music that inspired me the most was Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack for the film Cinema Paradiso. The sad, nostalgic notes suited my writer’s mood perfectly.
Some nights I stared down a blank sheet that dared me to “blink first” and walk away. Some nights I only wrote a few lines; sometimes it was nonsense, sometimes it was poetry. Some nights I managed to get in a few paragraphs, and on good nights I managed a few pages.
Spurred on by my progress, I used up vacation days and took Fridays off. I had three-day writing marathons. I wrote on planes and during the middle of jet-lagged nights. I was like a gym junkie who, if she didn’t work out, her right brain felt stiff the next day. And we all know how painful starting over can be. “Better not to lose the rhythm,” I thought.
In a moment of what could only be temporary insanity I sent off 200 pages to a professional editor to evaluate. I couldn’t believe I had written 200 pages. I also couldn’t believe that I just sent 200 pages of total nonsense to a stranger. I blushed at the thought of it.
Pleased with having written that much, I was ready to retire my quill and call it quits. A perverse part of me hoped for a poor evaluation so I wouldn’t have to go and do it again, wouldn’t have to begin the real work of outlining, and restructuring and developing a voice – all the things I knew were missing. But Melva McLean, my editor, found some potential in me and the work I’d submitted. That meant I had a decision to make. Quit before all the hard work began, or continue.
I decided to continue. I followed the same schedule as before – taking an evening or a weekend off now and then to recharge. My friends started to fear for my sanity and at one point attempted a writing intervention. Armed with bottles of wine they invaded my place one night – “Step away from the PC, Cat! You’re going downtown.”
Concurrent with the book, my editor suggested that I also start a blog to hone my voice and build a following for my new book in progress. Now I had two writing projects: the book and a blog. All I could hear was Hamlet’s voice in my head, “Words, words, words.”
The blog really did help me find my voice. The growing number of viewers meant people were actually reading my posts and waiting for the next one. I wrote all the time, and the strange thing was that it didn’t feel the least bit like work – well not like the work you have to do to make a living. I was really enjoying myself. Writing added a creative element to my day. I looked forward to it. A year later I turned in 300 pages.
Of course, I knew I wasn’t there yet. After another six months of revising and rewriting, I’d whittled the manuscript down to 223 pages and I was ready. Well I wasn’t so much ready as I was “done.”
“Not another word, I told Mel. This is it.” And it really was. I could feel it.
Let me tell you it was a great feeling. Looking back on it, I realized that I didn’t spend much time reading “How To” books; in fact, I only read two: Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I felt that if I was reading then I wasn’t writing. The point was to get something down on paper and go back and fix it later with the help of my editor and some judicious input from writers’ blogs like Jacqui Murray’s WordDreams.
The trouble with writing is once you start you can’t stop. This time I know that I do have another book in me and it’s time to start over again.
Catherine Larose is the author of the popular Cafe Girl Chronicles blog (which you will also find my blog roll on the sidebar). When she isn’t traveling the world for her job as a color marketer, Cat enjoys life in Montreal, Canada. Any Color but Beige is her first book, and she is busy working on a second. The book is available through Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de for those of you who are European readers.
How did you get started on your first novel? Did a story idea pop into your head? Was it something you’ve always wanted to do? Or did it just somehow start happening?