By Barbara Sinor, Ph.D
Writing a fiction novel was completely different for me than writing my non-fiction books. How would I even begin to write a tale that had sat idle in my brain for so many months? Would the storyline just magically appear in my consciousness as I sat at the keyboard with poised fingers waiting for direction? These questions and many more came rushing to my awareness as I contemplated writing my first novel.
For me, writing self-help books was easy—do the research, state your opinion, add some quotes, and a book forms almost by itself. But trying to write down a themed story that resided only in my brain matter, well, that was a challenge. I honor the author that can spill forth novel after novel and still present unique plots year after year! I’ve always enjoyed writing, that wasn’t the issue. My quandary was whether I could actually complete a novel that would have any public interest. I came to realize that my uncertainty was my own insecurities, and decided to challenge them.
In the beginning of my process, I wrote out a timeline of the characters I currently knew were going to be included in the book. Because Finding Destiny is set in two countries and there was nearly fifty years difference between the heroines, I felt I needed to be diligent about making sure that my readers knew the time sequence of each woman’s experiences. Keeping the outline saved me several times in making mistakes such as, having the older woman, Luana, use an iPhone while relating an event in her life that was experienced in 1980; or, the teenager living in the 1970s using a modern-day pregnancy detection kit! As the novel unfolded, it was clear that I needed to add each new character to that timeline, including their birth date. I developed each character’s individual list of traits—personality, physical description, relatives, career, and education. However, not all this information was included in the book. I wanted as much information as I could visualize in order to create each character as real as possible. For the two main characters, I even found photographs of women that I envisioned being in the movie, based on my book, and pinned them above my computer.
I imagine, as most writers experience, much of the plot for this novel was related to me in my dreams. Many times, I would awake in the middle of the night and jot down a dream that urged me to include it in my writing. Or, as I was doing a chore or working on my jewelry designs, an Ah Ha! would jolt my senses with just the right insight for an upcoming chapter. Because my novel needed to be set aside for a year or more due to the passing of my husband, I trusted that my dreams would always give me that needed boost to restart the creative juices once again. When I did regain my writing momentum, the story seemed to unfold before I even realized where it was going. I ‘m not sure how other fiction writers develop their storylines, but mine unraveled each time I gave it attention. I remember in the middle of the story, I doubted if I could come up with something new to add…but I kept writing anyway. Then somehow, it all started to make more sense, and the theme of women’s rights made its debut.
I also found that by writing about experiences, locations, personalities, and other topics I was familiar with made the story come alive. Someone once told me in high school to write about what I know, what I had experienced personally. Since most of my non-fiction books were written with this concept and had been successful, I felt this advice should also be carried out in my fiction work. Therefore, many of the characters reflect people I know; most of the locations are places I have lived or visited; and, some of the characters’ experiences have been my own. Writing about one’s own perspective on issues surrounding life, death and everything between, allows the readers a glimpse into the author’s views. I believe using familiar settings and events seems to come across in a book as more genuine. In my novel, when Luana shares about reading psychology and spiritual books, the reader may assume that the author may also lean in those directions. This establishes a solid reader-author connection. At least, I like to believe this is true.
I have also heard that the middle of a book’s storyline should be a culmination point. This may not be true; but in writing this novel, I did try to use this reader-catching technique. And, because I like cliff-hangers, I ended the book with a slight question of whether the storyline had completely ended. This afforded me the opportunity to write a sequel, if I so desired. As for getting my first fiction novel published? I am fortunate to have a publisher who will publish just about anything I submit; although, I am sure this fiction piece was quite a surprise!
Barbara Sinor, Ph.D. is a retired psychotherapist living in northern California. Finding Destiny is Sinor’s long awaited first fiction novel, release date September 1, 2016. Her other six books are highly endorsed in the non-fiction genres of addiction recovery, childhood abuse/incest, adult children of alcoholics, and other self-help and inspirational topics. Dr. Sinor encourages your comments and can be contacted through her website: www.Dr.Sinor.com. Sinor’s other writing appears in the quarterly Recovering the Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing, as well as other magazines, newsletters, and Blogs. She currently facilitates women’s groups, designs and makes jewelry, and is working on the sequel to Finding Destiny.