By Jan Gayle
A year and a half ago I had never even dreamt of writing a fictional story let alone a full length novel. After over twenty years in the military, the only writing I did was brief concise factual reports–boring. Then one day an old friend of mine told me he had written a short story, and would I read it for him. I said sure; I always love a good story, and he’s one of the best story tellers I know. I wanted to see what he had written. As I started reading it, I thought, I could do this. I told him a little about an idea I had. It was nowhere near a real plot. He told me to write it down, and send it to him. I declined at first, then one day I just started typing about a couple of characters I had in my head–I loved it. I’ve discovered some of my best friends are my characters.I desperately wanted to see what would happen to them. In just over a month, I had 60,000 words and a real plot. I had no idea I would enjoy writing. Now, fourteen months later, about ten DIY books on writing, a creative writing course at the community college, three complete manuscripts and a monthly writer’s group meeting, and I think I’m actually getting better at a skill I had no idea I had.
The technical aspect is pretty straightforward, and I feel like I have a good handle on it. It’s the creative part I struggle with. I get a partial idea, and I start thinking I might have something, but then I can’t come up with a complete plot. I go to my muse, my amazing wife, just like I did with the first story. So far she has come through for me every time. We spend a few hours discussing my characters and my lame idea. Over the course of a few Friday-night-date dinners, we’ve figured out a pretty good plot. I haven’t been able to plan out a story start to finish in an outline with well-developed characters. I have to start writing about the people in my head. If I don’t just start nothing ever happens. After reading all the books on writing a novel, the one thing I know for sure is that there is no single right way to write a story. You just have to do it your way. There’s still so much to learn and so many ways to improve. I know I’ll get better as time goes on and as I get closer to my 10,000 hours (“The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell). As long as I love writing as much as I do right now, I’ll keep doing it. I’m a long way from a master piece, but I’m shooting for that and with Jules by my side, maybe one day I’ll get there. In the meantime, the only way to get better is to write, write, write.