"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all."-Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Let's start at the very beginning...My Adventures in Writing (Part One)

About three years ago I lived in a three-bedroom apartment with HORRIBLE laundry facilities. After several ruined shirts and countless "less then clean" loads, I made the decision to only use said laundry facilities if it was an absolute emergency. Every week for 4 years, I would load up my laundry, my three babies (aged three and under), into my little red lancer and make the 30-minute drive down to my grandma's house to do wash.

Now at the time if you had asked me how I felt about the arrangement I might have said, "Oh, you know it's a hassle, I wish that I didn't have to load it up every week, but I enjoy the time with GG (Great Grandma)." But now, I can tell you that it was nothing short of The Lord's hand in my life working miracles and guiding me along... For many many reasons.  One of those reasons is the quiet time it gave me to start dreaming up stories.

It's pretty clear from this blog, that I love to read.  I love being whisked away into the written world.  Whether its back to the singles ward, a dystopian society or even into Medieval times, I just love the reading experience.  What I didn't realize, at least consciously, was that it's more than just a love of reading, but a deeper love of story-telling that has my heart.

As a young child I would often ask GG to tell me a story from her mouth, meaning tell me a story in your own words, not one from a book.  On one family vacation my cousin and I began a co-authored novel about medieval times-- even at age 10, my book was a romance that contained a love triangle- It's a sickness, I know.  So what I failed to realize until about two and half years ago was that I really wanted to write my own novel. And lucky me, the hour plus drive to and from GG's gave me the perfect opportunity to dream the novel up.

The first book that started to take root was/is a dystopian trilogy and while I will one day write it (I have notebooks of notes and 40+ pages complete with outline) I just can't seem to get the words our right.  Don't worry, I wasn't discouraged, in fact if anything it is what started the fire of writing in me.

In 2012, I found the New Adult genre, if you want to know more about it click here to learn more about the genre in general or here to read what USAtoday says about the New Adult Genre. Essentially, the New Adult genre is the time between YA fiction (think high school/teen years) and Adult fiction (grown up problems, think married with career).  New adult fiction is the bridge.  These books are about college, identity crises, leaving home for the first time, not the first romance, but maybe the lasting romance.

Unfortunately, as I got more into reading this genre, I realized that there were not so many books out there that were what I would consider appropriate to read.  (This is me making a super sad face.)  Honestly, this genre has become synonymous with what can only politely be described as soft sex or in other words Fifty-Shades of Grey's little sister. Now here is where I make a confession that I got sucked in.  At first, I would skip the pages with the scene and then I decided it really wasn't a big deal and there ya go, that flaxen cord had become a nylon rope.

After some discussions with my husband, and if I'm totally honest one discussion with a kind-hearted bishop, I made it my mission to find the best books that I could to read.  That meant no more sex scenes, everything needed to take place behind closed doors and books needed to be at a "PG-13" rating.   I figured that if the prophets counsel not to watch R-Rated programs, that would probably go for books too right?

Let me tell you what. There are so many great books out there!  There are authors who are writing books that are worth something, that entertain me and make me laugh and cry and swoon and guess what I don't have to feel guilty for reading any of it.  And more importantly, I have never felt the Lord's hand, the Lord's blessing so fully in my life.

In the book of Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon it says:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Okay, this is not me saying that I am a "strong" writer or that I have books that will ever see the light of publishing, but what I have been given is strength and courage to write. I have a passion to write.  I have a desire to write.

While on my quest to find "the best books"  I decided to check out what was going on in the LDS world.  Guess what?  There are so many talented LDS authors out there and LDS Fiction has really changed over the last few years.  Women (and men too) are writing stories that are so great (in pretty much every genre you could ever be interested in).

One such author is Melanie Jacobsen.  Melanie writes New Adult LDS romantic comedies, if you want to put it in a box, although I think she will break into the national market by this time next year if not sooner.  This is where I tell you to read anything this woman has ever written, I love her novels.  I first came across her book, The List, while looking for New Adult fiction that I could be sure was clean.  After that book I read every that had her name on it.  I then discovered authors's like Julie Wright, Susan Auten, Janette Rallison, and Kaylee Baldwin, among so so so many other talented LDS Authors.

One night after I had put the children to bed, I was working on my first novel (the dystopian one) and I realized that that wasn't the story I wanted to be writing. I was writing it, but it just felt kind of dead. Like a body without a spirit or something.  Well, I had been listening to a song earlier that day at the gym (Beneath Your Beautiful) and a story for a book just started to pour into my head.  At that moment I opened up a new document and wrote the first ten pages of a book that I am now nearly 95,000 words into (or 250 pages).  I told you, it just started to flow.

I started slowly, chugging away a little each day, not really knowing what I was doing and about 50% of the way through I decided I needed a little advice.  I wrote Melanie and asked for any tips she might be willing to give in writing LDS Romance, but not really expecting a reply.  A day or so later, I received a reply... guess what?  She lives about 10 minutes away from me.  I told you the Lord had His hands all over this.

She suggested we meet up and talk instead of switching emails back and forth.  About  a week later we did just that.  I took at least a full-page of notes from that one sit-down.  I came home and wrote another 10,000 words over the next 24-hours.  Her biggest encouragement was for me to attend an LDS Writer's Conference with her.  Which, let me tell you was absolutely incredible. That will be a second post because I just have too much to say about ANWA and how it has shaped my writing experience.

I am now about 4 scenes away from completing a very very rough first draft of my first novel.  I wish I had a title to give you, but like naming my first child, it probably won't happen until after it's born.  Sorry to disappoint. I hope you enjoy this post and I hope you will follow this series on my writing adventure.  My next installment will be about all the many wonderful things I learned at ANWA- If you are attempting to write too, you won't want to miss it!

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