By Dani Pettrey
Just like there are various stages or steps in a romantic relationship, there are stages and steps in the writing journey. Steps we can all reflect on and learn from. So what step comes first? Also known as ‘the initial spark’ comes:
The Attraction Phase: You begin to think ‘maybe I’ll write a novel or I have a story idea.’ This is what I like to call the daydream phase. You… flirt with the idea of writing a novel or a particular story and thoughts like ‘Should I do this? Can I write a novel? What am I getting myself into?’ run through your head.
You hear quotes like:“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the [computer] and open a vein.” ~Earnest Hemingway
“One must be a little crazy to write a good novel.”
And you wonder if it’s worth it. However, at the same time as Beatrix Potter says:
“There is something delicious about writing the first words of the story. You never know quite where they’ll take you.”
If you’re a writer, even if you’ve never written a word yet, you will be pulled to it. The story idea will grab hold of you and not let go. Then the question becomes whether you will answer the call. You decide you are intrigued, you like the idea. It won’t leave your mind, so you go on to the second step.
The First Date: This is where you start writing, using any variety of methods. One thing I’ve learned as a writer and from my writer friends is that there is no one right way to write a novel. God made us all unique and therefore we all write uniquely. You take the advice that resonates with you and you run with that, ignoring the rest. God has His own journey laid out for you and yours will be like no one else’s, so there’s absolutely no need to compare.
A few fantastic quotes for this stage are: “First drafts are for learning what your story is about.” ~Bernard Malamud.
“The only writer you should compare yourself to is the writer you were yesterday.” ~David Schlosser.
Then you move into the third step or phase.
The Second Date: This is where you really begin digging into your story. Perhaps you scope out available resources (books on craft, writing organizations, and writer groups), but in doing so takes a huge leap of faith. Announcing you’re writing a book can be scary because it lets the world in on your private story and many writers feel nervous sharing their desire to write a book. Hopefully you have wonderfully supportive response. But you do have a choice to make—will you turn away, decide it’s not worth the effort or will you move into phase four?
Make A Commitment: This is where you decide you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t published yet. You are a writer all the same. A writer is, simply put, someone who writes.
By making the commitment, it means you’re going to get serious. You set aside regular, consistent time to write. And, you are going to not only write, but you are going to finish a novel.
"The hardest part of writing a novel is finishing it.”~Ernest Hemingway.
“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.” ~JK Rowling
So, you continue on. You build your relationship with your novel, you get to know your characters, they come to live inside your head. You write on days you don’t feel like it. These types of days are often the most important days to write. You keep at it and hours, days, weeks, months, possibly years later it happens you’re married to it. You’ve finished your novel. You time the end and you’re done…almost.
Next come the revisions and editing.
Pregnancy or Labor Stage:This is where the really hard work comes in. This is where you hone your craft. You look at word choice, you look at description, you pay attention to the tiniest details while keeping a watchful eye on the big picture.
As Stephen King says:“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”
And then, finally your novel is finished, polished and ready to go out into the world.
The Birth Phase:To quickly sum up this entire process succinctly there is a 5 Rule Quote I love, especially statement #5. It’s completely worth it. I love this quote because it fully expresses the beauty and power of story. Two quotes I love that capture this perfectly are:
“You can make anything by writing.” ~ C.S. Lewis
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.” ~Dr. Seuss
The doctor is right. We need the power of story because it transports readers to seeing through another’s eyes, moving them to another place and time. Anything is possible through story, and it all starts with your God-given imagination. If you’ve always wanted to write a novel or write your second one, or fifteenth, follow these Romance Steps to get you to the best words in the world--and the often the hardest—The End.
Praised by New York Times best-selling author Dee Henderson as “a name to look for in romantic suspense,” Dani Pettrey has written eight novels, which have sold more than 300,000 copies. Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance novel. Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s],” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today). Dani’s adventure-focused Alaskan Courage series climbed the CBA best-seller lists, with Submerged staying in the top twenty for five consecutive months. The five-book series also won multiple awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award, two HOLT Medallions, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award, among others. She turns her attention to crime and law enforcement in her home state of Maryland in her new Chesapeake Courage series, starting with Cold Shot, which Library Journal called, “a harrowing and thrilling ride.” For more information about her novels, visit danipettrey.com.