When I told an established novelist, screenplay writer and Pulitzer Prize journalist of my intention to finish my first novel, he asked me when I came up with my story. I told him that I had the idea for my book at least twenty plus years ago, but every time I started it, I would just give up and throw it away. He asked me why. I told him that I wasn’t quite sure but, at the time, I never felt like it was coming out right.
His response to that stuck with me: “Sometimes you need to live a little more, have more life experience behind you, to make it all come out in the right way.”
He was 55 years old when he wrote his first novel.
My novel, Scout’s Honor is not a memoir (thank God). I think memoirs, while probably painful writing, certainly have their place in our hearts and on our bookshelves. But fiction writing is a unique way to write real life experiences into an alternate universe altogether.
When I completed my first manuscript and started sending it out, I was 44 years old with a wealth of life experience behind me…I had to grow up a lot faster than most of my peers…but I’m also still young enough to have a wealth of life experience ahead of me. I’m wiser but not yet wise.
I started writing Scout’s Honor in my head when I was in my early twenties. I can even recall telling a supervisor, while in the Army, to be on the lookout for my book someday. But I don’t think that this particular book could have been written without the last twenty years also lived. I supposed I had to go through more of life in order for it to be written how I wanted to tell this particular story.
I had to experience more of real life: death, heart break, grief, love, suffering, inexplicible pain, joy, personal success, personal failure, and all the highs and lows that come with a twenty year marriage and raising two children into adulthood. I think that fiction writers do what memoir writers do: take the wealth of emotions that come from real life experiences, and instead of putting them all into a true story, push them into a fictional one…creating something almost as real as a memoir itself.
What do you channel into your writing?