Learning To Write: My First Novel Part II
Inspiration For My Story Line
I had an idea for my first story that was inspired by dreams that continued to haunt me. The nightly apparitions just seem to crop up out of nowhere. The amazing thing is, I somehow become an integral part of the particular event in my mind, and I don’t always fare too well in the outcome.
I have always been fascinated by the Navy Seal team’s enigmatic aura. When we visited their dedicated Museum in Ft. Pierce, we got to see the Maersk Alabama cargo ship life boat that held the ship’s captain hostage while being driven away by Somali pirates. 6 to 7 very difficult shots by Seal team snipers ended the lives of the 3 pirates while traveling across rough waters. The end result was that the ship captain’s life was spared.
My dreams included similar scenarios with my involvement scribbled into the plot. I don’t know why, but I didn’t do anything to foster those illusory nighttime tales. I suppose my thought patterns were focused in such a way that my dream patterns caused me to experience tall tales first hand.
Anyway, I decided to make a former Navy Seal member the protagonist for my novel. He had to have characteristics that defied logic, almost superhuman to be exact. In other words a Super Seal!
He had to possess uncanny attributes in physical stature, stamina, mental acuity, and tactical capabilities. In other words, he became an icon while serving as a superlative operative.
My Convoluted Pathway
I violated all the standard rules used by seasoned writers for developing my plot. I had an idea and just started transferring my thoughts to paper (or computer keyboard to be exact), with no plan or organized outline to follow. Just pulled the gun out of the holster, pointed the weapon at the target, and started firing.
Since this effort started way back in 2011, I worked on it for about a month and just gave up. I saved the product in an obscure folder on my computer and forgot that it was still there. After all, who wants to read my amateur material and pick it apart for countless grammatical errors and a faulty story line.
But 6 years later, I decided to try my hand at creating and writing blogs for my own website. With false starts and little headway, I started to get discouraged. Then my research brought me in contact with a father-daughter team that helped me start to put the pieces of the puzzle together and I learned to write by just starting and training myself in the process.
That journey has taken me along a path paved with over 10,000 commentaries from countries around the world. Since very few of them were negative, my confidence increased with each new blog. So I pondered the next step.
Dusting Off The Cobwebs
I started to think I might be good enough to write my own publication. Since I am no expert for any fascinating topic that would gain the interest of potential book buyers, non-fiction material is out. I am just not smart enough to be an authority for that type of work.
So I turned to fiction. And guess what? I had a forgotten piece of pending literature waiting in a cobweb covered electronic folder. Like a phoenix from the ashes, I decided to bring my lost manuscript back to life. Little did I realize, I had a major part of the story already completed. Or, at least sitting as a first draft.
With a feint hint of enthusiasm, I went looking for the buried folder and finally found it in an obscure location. I pulled it out and pasted the thing onscreen for a half-hearted review. But too my amazement, I discovered that what I had written wasn’t half bad.
So, still breaking the rules of proper planning and procedural tactics, I continued where I left off. Just took the time to continue with my off-the-wall approach to creating a novel. But this time, I had developed significant writing skills with help from my WORDPRESS platform and editorial assistance applications and plugins.
My Plot On The Fly
My convoluted plan to revitalize my forgotten manuscript was to develop characters and their own stories as I wrote. Apart from the protagonist, or main character in the story, sub-characters needed to rise up and be heard.
A childhood friend was the first co-star. An attractive and intelligent wife appeared immediately in the first chapter. A former partner in the service hinted at some intriguing plot to develop as soon as he entered the picture. No planning for him, just popped into view.
Antagonistic colleagues, a feisty daughter, and a discarded fiancé groomed for stardom twisted the plot and morphed the story towards a potentially catastrophic conclusion. An unexpected femme fatale impostor became a critical embellishment to keep things in check.
I chose not to identify the location of the plot, only to give descriptions of the geographical layout of the land. I used inanimate entities to control the direction of the events unfolding through each page turned.
What I wanted to accomplish was the creation of a story that even I would want to read. And I don’t like to read fiction. I can count on one hand the number of novels I have completed, and those included directives from my English teachers in school.
My Struggle To Develop A Professional Product
As I discussed in “My First Novel Part I”, I could not afford to hire a professional editor/proofreader, so I turned to computerized programs to do that work for me.
I started out with a free version of ProWritingAid (PWA) and used it for my first full edit with great success. But to my chagrin, it wasn’t near enough because I bypassed a lot of key editorial components and could only cover 500 words at a time. So instead of reviewing one whole chapter, I had to settle for a page a time.
During the course of my editing efforts, I received an email from a marketing firm that offered numerous PWA training publications for the low price of $49, but also one year of the Premium Version of the full featured and unlimited editor program. I grabbed the offer and put it to use.
Wow! Was I shocked. I found out that I had missed the boat on important critical features by using the free version vs. the now-installed Premium Plan. One thing that drove me nuts was the dreaded Diction and Repeats categories. I had to virtually start all over with my second and third edits.
Lots Of Work And Perseverance
I spend an entire day plowing through a single chapter of my draft to correct issues like the following:
- Style of writing including dreaded adverb replacements
- Grammar and Spelling issues
- Overused words
- Readability scores for grades of difficulty
- Cliches and Sticky sentences
- Echoes (close repeats of the same word)
I got so frustrated with the “All Repeats” function to find and underline similar words, I gave up on that procedure. It is almost impossible to deal with, even though I tried.
I spent 5 to 8 hours each day working on editing my manuscript, sometimes late into the night. It was frustrating to see that I had so much work to do to create a professional product. I am used to writing a blog in one day, like I am doing for this article, and setting it up for publication the next. This new discipline has tested my patience, or lack thereof.
So Where Do I Stand As Of This Writing
I have created my current-choice book cover (subject of another blog), and followed training directions for installing the necessary final pages:
- Title a Page with sub-title
- Copyright page and Publisher info (myself)
- Dedication and Acknowledgements page
- Story Line Page (Body Of the Novel)
- About The Author
With that finished, I have requested family members who are also avid book readers to edit my work. They have agreed, and promised to forget that they are related to me so that I can receive honest commentaries and corrective inputs. I emailed them digital versions in WORD pdf. format so they can use their online editor functions for feedback.
My daughter, Susan, who is in training to become an English teacher, asked me if I wanted her to treat my work as a daughter or as an editor. I told her to pretend she wasn’t my daughter and to go for it. She responded by telling me she was a harsh proof-reader, and I responded with a very frightened looking emoji! Her reply was “LOL”!