Karen has been one of my favourite blogging buddies for years now and I'm thrilled to be able to help her promote her foray into fiction!
The Process of Writing a First-Time Novel after Decades of Writing Nonfiction
Thank you, Jemi, for hosting me today.
Okay, I’ll admit it right off the bat. Deep, deep down I’d always wanted to write a novel. Ever since I’d read Little Women when I was a child I wanted to be Jo, sequestered in an attic, spinning tales. But that wasn’t the direction my life took. Instead, I became a marketing/public relations professional and wrote articles, essays, brochures, annual reports and the like – always with my client’s name on the piece – never my own.
After three decades, I quit to write full time. I had a story to tell, but it wasn’t fictional. It was my own story. That resulted in my memoir, Following the Whispers, which I published in 2009. Later that year, while vacationing in Scotland, I heard a voice asking me to tell its story. I’d never experienced anything like that before and it frightened me. It happened again in Ireland, so when I got home, I began to explore what this voice was and what story it wanted me to tell.
In the first session with my writing coach, Mark David Gerson (www.markdavidgerson.com), I said, “I can’t write fiction.” I’d tried. During the years I was working on my memoir, I went back to school to complete a college education I’d started in the 1960’s. I took every creative writing course the university had to offer and got straight A’s – even graduated Summa Cum Laude. But it was clear to me that I was not a fiction writer. In my mind, you must have a great imagination, write great metaphors, use similes and other writing techniques. Be able to write lush, rich descriptions. That just wasn’t me. I was used to the who, what, where, when, and why of a press release.
Big sigh here. Mark David’s gentle coaching style helped me move past my own limiting beliefs so that I could begin to allow this story to emerge. Believe me, I kicked and screamed the entire six years it took to get this story out of me. I’ve lost count of the number of drafts. The first one Mark David called a skeleton. “Now you have to put the skin and organs on it.”
Writing a novel was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am not an analytical thinker when it comes to writing. I write from the heart. So I didn’t think through a character’s motivation or even character traits. They just came through and I wrote it down. I guess it was kind of like automatic writing.
I’m still much more comfortable writing nonfiction. I’m pretty sure that will be my next project – in fact that same voice is now asking me to write a companion piece to The Wishing Steps – one that imparts all the wisdom that came through during the writing of the book. I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to ignore those callings. Stay tuned…
Here’s the scoop on The Wishing Steps:
“Totally engrossing. A must-read for today’s wise woman!” Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin, minister/priestess
Brighid, Ashleen and Megan: Bound through time by a curious light, a mysterious voice and a call they dare not ignore. Yet in obeying this strange force, the women must face soul-searing trials that call into question everything they know and believe — about themselves and about the world around them.
“Guaranteed to inspire you to a deeper level of spirituality and a new appreciation for Goddess.” Rev. Clara Z. Alexander
Karen Helene Walker is a widely published essayist and author of the 2009 memoir, Following the Whispers. When she isn’t writing, you will often find Karen performing in nursing homes and retirement communities as part of the Sugartime or Sophisticated Ladies musical groups, traveling with her husband of 20 years, Gary, or relaxing with a good book at their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visit the author’s website at www.karenhelenewalker.com
The Wishing Steps is available for purchase NOW in both print and ebook versions at: Amazon.com. You can also purchase it as an ebook on Kobo, I Tunes, and at Barnes and Noble.
Thanks Karen! I love the story of your journey to becoming a fiction writer - it's so interesting how the stories choose us.
What about you? Do your stories choose you? Do you want to stretch your wings and try nonfiction (if you're a novelist) - or the reverse?