Behind-the-Scenes of "Finding Heaven"

Once upon a time, I began a blog. This blog.

I was hosted on Blogger then. My amazing, witty, and word-smithy friend Colleen had just invited me to read her new blog, thus introducing me to both a word and a world that I had never known existed. I had no idea how important both would become for me.

Blogging gave me a much-needed creative outlet, and community, at a time when my days revolved around dirty diapers and breaking up childhood spats. In those early years, I blogged a lot.

Then, I began to get comments along the lines of "You should write a book."

I need material to do that kind of thing, I thought. Writing about my life? That was easy. Writing stuff I made up?

Not so much.

The Question that Turned Me Into a Novelist

Then, sometime around 2012, I was watching a mermaid show--H2O: Just Add Water, I believe. (Don't judge me.) Anyway, while watching that show, a question occurred to me:

"Where are all the mermen?"

My brain wouldn't let that question go. And before long, I had answered it, and built a world, and had three solid book ideas that I thought I could write. (Still haven't written them. Maybe next?)

Digital painting by the amazing Susan Schroder, whom I have already decided will be the graphic artist designing the covers of my mermaid novels. Image used by permission. (Available from her website: http://susanschroder.com/)

Digital painting by the amazing Susan Schroder, whom I have already decided will be the graphic artist designing the covers of my mermaid novels. Image used by permission. (Available from her website: http://susanschroder.com/)

The only problem is, I still knew next to nothing about writing fiction, or what it took to be a successful novelist.

Fortunately, at some point, I had found the website of Holly Lisle, who teaches novel-writing for a living (when she's not writing her own fantastic speculative fiction.) She was launching an updated and improved version of her six-month novel-writing course, How to Think Sideways. And I decided to take it.

Since I've already shared how I wrote my first novel, The Friday Night Date Dress, as practice while taking the course, I'd say, "The rest is history", but there is a reason I brought that up specifically in this post. In one of the lessons (and in other resources like her free newsletter), Holly mentioned an author friend of hers that is very successful, but actually hates what she writes and has nothing but contempt for the fans who read it.

Her point was to emphasize how important it is as authors that we write about things that matter to us. It was a point I took to heart.

But, like you are probably wondering right now, her story prompted a question in my brain: "Why would that author write something she hates?"

I think all great stories probably begin with a question that the author has to answer for themselves. Thus it was that, in 2012, while I was learning how to create a career as a writer, I also got the seed idea that eventually bloomed into my second novel, Finding Heaven.

I think all great stories probably begin with a question that the author has to answer for themselves. Thus it was that, in 2012 while I was learning how to create a career as a writer, I also got the seed idea that eventually bloomed into Finding Heaven.

Five Years Later...

There have been many iterations and false starts on this story since then, not to mention several other pieces of inspiration to fill out the story. Even after I got the final missing pieces in the fall of 2015 and began writing the book, the process took much longer than I'd anticipated.

Of course, the book ended up much longer than I'd anticipated, too.

And that's okay. :-)

This book has been hugely instrumental for me as I have worked through my grief at the loss of my son.

It has also been a huge learning curve about the process of writing, understanding story structure, and how to find my story when all seems lost in the swamp. I wrote my first book primarily on instinct. This book was way too long and complicated for that, and after breaking my story a couple of times, I had to really figure out what I wanted to say so I could fix it.

(Incidentally, the same Colleen that inspired me to become a blogger has also been one of my greatest cheerleaders and inspirations while completing this project. I'm pretty sure I'd still be at the "just-kill-them-all" stage if it weren't for her.)

But then, almost a month ago, I finished the book--in my head. I spent one sleepless night laying as still as possible so as not to disturb my light-sleeper husband, but with my brain working overtime as I sketched out every scene from where I was to the end of the book, finally getting a couple of hours sleep once the whole thing was completed.

I ran on adrenaline for days, and for the next two weeks, I set new personal bests for daily word count as I pounded the story out.

Apparently, when I'm in the home stretch of writing a book, it is just as sleep-reducing as reading one--except writing it takes longer! I probably wrote as many words in those two weeks as my entire first book is long! Since then, I have been revising and tweaking it. Then, on Saturday, I finally sent it out to beta readers.

Since Saturday afternoon, I have been slowly coming back to reality, like a typical "book hangover" times ten.

What's Next

I have about a month before my beta readers' deadline to get their notes back to me, then my editor will have a crack at it, and then I will finally get to publish it.

I have a bit of a dream that I will have some copies in hand when I go to the When Words Collide conference in August, but that may be pushing the bounds of the miraculous.

At any rate, it's so strange to finally be finished this story. Two months ago, I was despairing that I would ever finish it, and just wanted to "kill them all and start something new."

Now that it's almost done, I absolutely love the story I have. And I am so excited about starting those new things, knowing that the last thing counts as a success. (It's finished, so it was successful.)

But before I begin my next adventure, there are a few things that I need to tick off my list in the "real world". And I'm so glad that I get to enjoy the summer that has finally arrived in the Peace Country without a deadline hanging over my head!

Image courtesy of Lightstock.com.

Image courtesy of Lightstock.com.

Peace Country Writers

Before I close I wanted to mention that  I was honoured recently to be listed on an invitation-only website for local Peace Country Writers, one I had never heard of before. In exploring the website, I found almost a dozen other local authors in all kinds of genres that I had also never heard of before. Because of that, I thought I would share this link with you so you can take a gander and see if you can find a new local author to love.

One of the first things up on my list this week?

Plant my garden!

How are you today, friend?