“The book that would change her life forever fell from the shelf and landed at her feet, as if fate itself had placed it there.”
This is the first line of my novel. Well… one of the novels I am writing.
“Chef Clara reminds me of Aunt Bea, a woman who can’t be trusted with booze or chocolate but certainly enriches our lives.”
This is the line from another novel I’m writing.
“A great grift is like a romance. You have to find out what they want and then woo them.”
“I was 14 when I moved in with my husband. People have asked me what it was like to marry at that age, and I suppose it is the same as when you marry at any age. One minute you’re having a good time, and the next, you’re terrified.”
Yes, a THIRD and FOURTH novel. There’s also a fifth.
And dozens of characters.
*Lucy, a young woman that finds a magical book.
*Olive, a mid-lifer finding adventure – and purpose – in culinary school. (There may be a kidnapping involved.)
*Apple, a grifter who struggles with an unsettling realization that maybe, just maybe, there is more to the art of deception than she knows.
*Jane, known only as ‘the woman on death row’.
*Sue, unemployed and with no other alternatives, stumbles upon what can only be described as a ‘genie in a bottle,’ leading her to make a wish she never anticipated.
I’m a rockstar at naming characters and writing first lines. It’s the 89,990 words that follow that give me trouble.
Which is why I have a writing coach. An accomplished, published writer.
On one recent call, she offered Imagine If’s:
Imagine Olive, instead of jumping in with both feet and not thinking through situations is, instead, someone who takes NO chances in life. Imagine if she is a Michelin-star chef instead of a master of Trader Joe’s one-pot meals. Imagine the secret room she stumbles upon is actually a cooking class with strobe lights and a side of vegetables instead of mobsters plotting a kidnapping.
Another words, imagine the story completely different from the way you are currently writing it. Imagine the protagonist to be a completely different character. Imagine the plot to be nothing like what you’ve spent 30,000 words setting it up to be. Imagine the entire reason she is in this situation is actually some other random and possibly nonsensical reason.
Imagine if this story is… something completely different than what you’ve got.
With all these ‘imagine if’s’ I second-guessed whether I even had a novel worth writing.
So I started a new novel.
One coaching call after another. One ‘imagine if’ after another. One new novel after another.
I finally wised up and realized there is a big difference between a writer who coaches and a coach who writes.
I also realized that when I drill down to beat sheets, plot points, a blueprint of every pivot point of the hero’s journey, applying methodology, blah, blah, blah, I become bored as hell with the story – not to mention it becomes nothing more than a daunting task to sit down and write every day. Yes, can’t forget about the ‘daily writing habit’ that is supposed to put me in my chair every day at the same time for one hour because that’s how the writing coach says you write a novel…
I say, imagine if writing a novel is like assembling a puzzle where you have all the pieces but no picture on the box to guide you, and you’re not even sure if some pieces belong to this puzzle or a completely different one.
Imagine falling in love with your characters, even if they’re total trainwrecks with questionable life choices.
Imagine if starting a novel is like planting a seed – you have no idea if it will grow into a majestic tree or a quirky shrub, but you’re excited to see it sprout nonetheless.
Imagine if one day, these characters meet in a cafe…