I had a big, cool idea in the 1990s. I wanted to write a novel. I decided this at a crazy-bad time. I had two little kids at home and a demanding job. But I thought about writing all the time. I had to figure out a way to write a novel.
My first baby step was to make a list of novels I loved and characters I wanted to meet in real life. I gave myself a week to brainstorm all of my favorite books and characters.
Then I took another week to think about common threads. What appealed to me most in my favorite novels? And what types of characters was I most drawn to?
My week #3 baby step was to take my thoughts from weeks 1 and 2 and use them to stir ideas for possible storylines. At the end of week 3, I had 8 different storylines I liked. The one that most spurred my imagination was a plot that centered on America’s build-up to the Civil War and featured a strong, young female protagonist. I was off and running.
Except I wasn’t really running. It was more of a controlled amble as I outlined the plot, then started doing research for the time period. Years of research led to years of writing. And editing. And finally to publishing in 2012. When I started, I had no idea it would take me over 15 years to finish. But I never focused on the end. I loved the process of getting to know the characters and loved figuring out how the story evolved. And I loved how the characters drew me in so much I felt obligated to tell their story.
And, by the way, this didn’t end up being a novel about America’s build-up to the Civil War. Gunny Malone is about a strong female protagonist who grows up in Ireland in the 1840s. How did that shift happen? One baby step at a time!
So what are you working on?
What’s your big dream?
If your dream seems too big to get your arms around, what’s one baby step you can take this week to get started?
When you’re working on something that completely captivates you, your energy lifts and, I swear, you’ll find a way to make it happen. One baby step at a time.
Happy Fall-in-New-England Weekend. Pix from a yard and beach walk this AM 🙂
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