Dinner with a friend kicked off the 11-year novel
Back in 2008, I bought a book called A Book Is Born, which presents the stories of 24 authors and how their books came to be, from idea to publication. Day 9 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge asks our bloggers to offer descriptions of their books’ genesis. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.
Day 9 writing prompt:
Describe how the idea for your book first came to you. Where were you? Who was the first person you told? How did they respond?
The idea for Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World came in increments. The precipitating event was dinner with a good friend. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever known, but life circumstances made him very security conscious. If you know anything about the Enneagram personality typing system, he is a 6.
So we were having dinner one night, and I asked him, “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?”
Deadpan, he answered me, “I think I’d like to walk around the world.”
I laughed – which annoyed him.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Because in a million years, you’d never walk around the world. You’re too safe.”
“No I’m not,” he pouted, unwilling to admit I was right.
“Yes you are. You’d never give up your job, your apartment, leave Jennie…”
The pouting continued. “I don’t like that you called me safe.”
And then the conversation eventually drifted to another topic.
FAST FORWARD 2 YEARS
I was running a little weekly writing group (and by little, I mean three or four people) for a short time (and by short time, I mean three or four weeks). Each time we got together, we’d take turns suggesting a writing prompt. Then we’d put pen to paper and see what we came up with in half-hour or so. One of the prompts was: Early one morning…
So I started a story about a guy who sets off on a trip around the world. I got four paragraphs written.
FAST FORWARD 18 MONTHS
I heard about an international writing opportunity known as the 3-Day Novel
Contest. It takes place every Labor Day weekend, beginning at midnight on Friday night and running through midnight on Monday night. If you’ve been reading my previous Author Blog Challenge posts, you know that I was a nonfiction major, and fiction was never my strong suit. Nevertheless, I decided I could spare three days to give novel writing a try.
Then, I had to come up with a story I could tell in three days. Enter Stan. The contest rules said that the entire work had to be created that weekend. You couldn’t pull out an old manuscript, dust it off, and submit it. I’ll admit a wee bit of cheating, in that I had four paragraphs already written before the contest kickoff. But the rest – 107 pages – I wrote over those three days. Tomorrow I’ll tell you the process of researching and outlining the book.
So, realistically, three days is not long enough to write anything of substance. But it was enough to write what my friend Carol described as “a really good outline.” I showed an early draft to my sister, who I know will never mince words or tell me she likes something if she doesn’t. She said, “Of all the creative stuff you’ve done in your life – and you’ve done a LOT – this is, by far, the best.”
Those two positive responses kept Stan alive for me throughout the years. He’s getting there, now. Hell, I wrote past the biggest episode of writers’ block I’ve ever experienced just a couple days ago. So now it’s onward. And upward. And outward, into the vast, vast world around which he traveled.
For the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.
Here’s to your book idea, and getting the damn thing written!
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