Transitioning from writing nonfiction to being a novelist is probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. With nonfiction I think so structurally. I use a proposal as a point of departure, a detailed outline for chapter development and then do copious research. Then I integrate personal vignettes and stories into the more objective text. This process goes on for months, sometimes even years but eventually I end up with a book. I have published 5 adult nonfiction books over the past decade.
With fiction, I am in unknown territory. As a child I was drawn to academics, hence my predilection for nonfiction. My creative writing always consisted of poetry and sometimes prose. Making up stories seemed the domain of others.
As I mentioned, my nonfiction books are for adults, so how did I come to be writing Young Adult fiction? I can’t really explain it. They say your characters and story will speak to you, and as strange as it sounds that is exactly what happened for me. Moreover, most of our vivid memories and life-shaping events happen during youth. Numerous story seeds are planted early in life, which has led me to make my main characters teenagers.
If we leave enough quiet space in our lives, characters and stories will come to us-- within all of us there is a deep story. Like many novelists, my first work of fiction, "No Barren Life" (Lodestone Books, 2015) has elements and motifs drawn from my life. When I embarked on this journey towards fiction I pulled directly from my unpublished memoirs. Quickly though, I found that material wasn't enough to create a novel. A novel needs characters, plot, a story arc, and a setting that brings your words to life. While memoir and fiction can have a brief relationship, marriage is not in the offing.
I read novels by others as I write being careful not to read something too directly related to my story. I want my novels to have their own merits and a unique voice. So far, I am able to accomplish that goal by understanding and admiring the story structure, plot, and storytelling of others, while at the same time focusing on my inner story, muse and the voice that speaks to me—that of my protagonist.
With my nonfiction I can pretty much predict the estimated time of delivery. The birth of fiction, at least for me, is completely unpredictable. As hard as it is to believe, "No Barren Life," began back in 2003, when I first started to develop the story. It has had spurts of my attention but not a real intense focus until 2011. By late 2013, I started circulating it, querying agents and publishers. Thinking it might languish in my files forever, I started a new novel in December 2013. It is about a third of the way along. I hope its completion time will be within a year.
The journey towards fiction is a bumpy and unpredictable one for someone that has devoted their writing previously to nonfiction. With its many twists and turns, it is however a ride on the wild side. I am enjoying the journey. Read More