Friday, December 2, 2011

Making Dreams Come True – Part 2

If you haven't read the previous part, you may want to do so first. See:

I talked to you in the last post about how I finally felt I could achieve my life-time dream of writing a novel because I wasn't alone. God was with me. That's  when I found out I didn't know how to write a novel.

But I didn't give up.

Instead, I took action to solve the problem. I signed up for online writing classes and started reading how-to books. I took my first writing class in February 2004. All in all, over several years, I took courses on writing fiction, introduction to novels, advanced novel writing, which I repeated four times, and writing novel proposals. For the advanced novel classes, I had a wonderful, encouraging instructor, Bonnie Hearn Hill, who had published a number of novels. At the time she was writing thrillers, which were far from Christian fiction, but she is now publishing books for young adults.

Progress was slow.

I could feel that I was making headway, but I still didn't have much time to write. I was rehearsing three times a week with the opera chorus and teaching two days a week. So, I resigned from opera to give me more time to write. My last performance was The Marriage of Figaro on May 2, 2005. It was my 42nd production with Austin Lyric Opera over a period of fifteen years and I loved the stage work. But, I felt it was time to write this book. My wife at the time was also in the opera chorus and she wasn't ready to give it up. So, I drove with her to each rehearsal and then worked on the book while she practiced with the chorus. It actually helped me to do that. I find I write better away from home because I'm not tempted to do something that needs to be done around the house and I'm not tempted to watch a game on TV. This is jumping ahead in my story, but to emphasize what I mean about writing location, I should tell you my first novel was completed sitting alone in the PX while visiting the kids at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany.

The bookmobile story wasn't a novel after all.

Before long, I learned from my classes, that the story about the bookmobile librarian I had been carrying around in my head for so long wasn't a novel after all. If anything it was a bunch of fictional episodes, or short stories, all with the same main character. There was no story question and no conflict.

With the help of my writing instructor and fellow students, I changed the bookmobile librarian to a supporting role and added a man and woman in their fifties who had been close to getting married thirty years before the story begins.  Although they had been active in church before the break up, afterwards, Brian drops out of church while Karen, moves closer to God. She becomes a Stephen Minister, and then part-time hospital chaplain while helping students and fellow teachers at her elementary school. This wasn't based on any of my experiences. I don't know where the ideas came from, but before long the characters took on lives of their own.

Next time I'll tell you what happened next.

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