Earlier this month I had the great pleasure of reading House & Home by Kathleen McCleary. I absolutely loved it and reviewed it HERE. Kathleen is now a Washingtonian (D.C. that is) but she left her heart in Oregon which is where this novel derived from. I asked Kathleen if she would kindly write a guest post about her expereinces while writing House & Home for us here at Planet Books and she has graciously obliged.
It still seems somewhat unreal to me that at age forty-eight, I can walk into a bookstore and find my book, the one I wrote, there on the shelves.
Writing my first novel was a little like stumbling off a curb in the dark. I started the novel not because I wanted to write a novel, but because I had just moved across country and left my home of twelve years and was in such a turmoil of grief and anger over the whole thing that I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Here’s what I can tell you I learned about writing during the almost three years it took me to write a novel:
-Try not to care what anyone else thinks. I got about 100 pages into my novel and suddenly realized that maybe I actually WAS writing a novel. I started to worry about what other people might think if they read it, whether or not I could ever get it published, if it might get savagely reviewed. I got so worried that I stopped writing, for almost six months. My husband finally gave me a piece of advice that I clung to like a shipwreck survivor: Just finish it. The act of actually writing an entire book is a huge accomplishment in itself, and something you can be totally proud of, regardless of whether or not it ever gets published.
-Listen to your readers. After spending several months writing alone in a room in my house, I had no idea whether or not my first efforts at fiction were good, average or god-awful. So I signed up for an online novel-writing class at mediabistro.com. There, I read other writers’ work, and posted my own chapters for feedback from the teacher and other class members. It was invaluable. While the writers were an eclectic group (genres included vampire fiction, chick lit, a CIA-thriller, and a detective novel), they all read my novel carefully and responded honestly. In response to their feedback I changed several key plot points, added dialogue, and worked to flesh out various characters. Now that the book is out in the real world, I love hearing from readers about what worked and what didn’t. I’m absorbing all the input and applying what I’ve learned to my second novel.
-Go for a lot of walks. Any time I got really stuck while writing, I went for a long, hard walk over a route with lots of hills. Puffing and sweating was a great release for me, and I got most of my best ideas and sudden insights while walking.
-Listen to music. I can’t write with background noise, so my room is pretty silent when I’m working. But when I’m walking or doing housework, I listen to music—Counting Crows, Martina McBride, Lyle Lovett, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen. They’re all terrific songwriters. I found that listening to the vivid imagery in song lyrics, and to the rhythm of the words, really inspired my writing.
You can learn more about Kathleen McCleary and her novel House & Home at her website http://www.kathleenmccleary.com/. House & Home was featured in the Home & Garden section of The N.Y. Times. You can check out the article HERE. Also, if you are interested in checking out the classes that MediaBistro.com has to offer just click HERE.