Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Are you a novelist?"

There's a huge temptation to stay silent about writing fiction. At what point do you become a novelist, while typing “Chapter One” or “The End?”

One day, while homeschooling six children, I decided to write a novel. I had earned a B.S. in journalism and had a life-long love affair with books, so I thought I knew what I was doing. Turns out, I didn’t. I really had no idea how to write a scene, let alone chapter after chapter of the critters. I’d never heard of writing craft books. I thought you just used your creativity and muddled through until you held a completed manuscript. When I attended my first writing conference to meet an editor or agent, I learned that the conferences also taught writing courses. I invested in a shelf full of books on various aspects of fiction and began studying the craft. But during all those years, I told no one that I was writing. (By the way, if it take five years to write a novel, you’re most NOT writing one.)

When I met a NICU nurse, I made a mental note to interview her later. But she moved, so later never came. Then, I moved and the same thing happened with all the other people I’d intended to interview for my novel. The reason I missed opportunities to interview these people who came into my life was because I didn't want to tell them why I was interested. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was a novelist. Maybe, I wasn’t sure I was one. I had no way to gauge whether I'd be successful or not, and I didn't want to answer all the questions that were sure to follow.

Eventually, my family knew I was writing. One night, I stayed up late to finish editing a chapter for a contest I was entering. When I’d been in bed for an hour, my five-year-old woke me because he’d had a bad dream. I ended up missing church, and my children told everyone that I stayed home because of the contest. No! It was because of my child. But they’d told people about my writing, and the news was out.

The flip side to revealing my secret life is I’ve generated interest in my novel. Only problem is people are asking to buy a book I haven’t sold. I admit that I’m an unpublished novelist. Now, I’m often asked, “How’s the novel coming along?” and “Do you have a publisher yet?” Many days, those questions aren’t fun to answer. But when I’m asked, “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” There’s an easy answer, “Novelist.” I’m living my dream. (Except, of course, I’d like to add “published” in front of “novelist.”)

Have you told more than your closest friends or relatives that you’re writing fiction? If you have, when did you announce your news? If you haven’t, at what point will you admit you’re on the writing road?

~Roxanne Sherwood

1 comment:

Beth K. Vogt said...

Well, that's easy Roxanne! When I decided to venture over to the "Dark Side" and try writing fiction, I told you!! And I think I swore you to secrecy...