I’ve hit a lot of important milestones in my life.
- I ate solid foods.
- I learned to walk.
- I learned to talk and haven’t shut up since.
- I learned to read and do it obsessively.
- I learned to print and write in cursive.
- I learned to tell time.
- I learned to read music and play the piano…and the french horn…and the trumpet…and now, in a rudimentary way, the guitar (I WILL MASTER THE Bmin CHORD IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO).
- I learned to drive a stick shift.
- I graduated from high school. And college. And another college.
- I earned a certificate from a night school program.
- I landed several jobs.
- I got married.
- I had kids.
- I got unmarried.
- I braved okCupid, tinder, coffeemeetsbagel. I didn’t end up hating all men. (Trust me, that’s noteworthy.)
- I did my own taxes.
- I bought a car.
All these things are great. I’m proud of what I accomplished. But, there’s one thing I’ve wanted to do since I learned to hold a crayon: write a novel. I’ve written a lot of poetry and short stories. I’m a daft hand at flash fiction. I can write an essay that would convince you to sell all your belongings and join a circus. What I haven’t been able to do (yet) is come up with an idea for a novel that sustains me past the first 5,000 words or so.
But, 40-something years later, I haven’t given up. I keep buying books on how to write novels. I read them. I try some of the exercises. The latest book in my arsenal is The Secrets of Story by Matt Bird.
I was hooked by the first paragraph:
You’ve just boarded a plane. Your iPhone is loaded with all your favorite podcasts, but before you can get your earbuds in, disaster strikes: The guy in the next seat starts telling you all about something crazy that happened to him–in great detail. This guy is an unwelcome storyteller trying to convince an extremely reluctant audience to care about his story. We all hate that guy, right?
~Matt Bird, The Secrets of Story
I hope Mr. Bird is going to explain how to capture a reluctant audience’s attention and hold it. From the table of contents, it looks like he might. He includes “the thirteen essential laws of writing for strangers.” But that’s not all! He also provides “The Ultimate Story Checklist.” This should help me keep a reader’s attention after I’ve first caught it. I’m really excited about this book!
Now, if I could only come up with a really excellent idea…I’ve already scrapped the idea about the Sasquatch hunter who is allergic to pet dander.
P.S. I’m going to participate in Nanowrimo again this year. While I didn’t get far the last time I tried it, I did end up generating a lot of material that became short stories. Will any of you be participating?