by Normandie Fischer, @WritingOnBoard
1. You have to want to catch fish. Just as you can’t catch a fish if you don’t purpose to try, you can’t write a book if you don’t determine to begin—and then follow through.
2. You have to pick up the pole (or rod) and get out there.A lot of would-be novelists announce they’d really like to write a book, but will they do it? Wanting to isn’t enough. Wanting must be followed by doing.
And your biggest writing hurdle—first book or tenth—is to move beyond dreaming about the finish line. To reach the finish, you must first take one step. And then another.
3. You have to pick your fishing hole.I spent summers in NC, right next to the Atlantic Ocean’s fishing grounds. I caught my first mahi-mahi when I was six, trolling off my father’s cabin cruiser. My brother and I spent days anchored in the Straits near our cottage, bottom fishing. Moonlit evenings, we’d wade the creek shallows with our uncle, gigging for flounder. We weren’t likely to catch those flounder on a trolling lure, nor round up mahi-mahi with a gig.
I began my writing career as a poet, then with creative non-fiction and/or technical tomes. When I decided to write novels, I had a new fishing ground to learn about. New places I wanted to go and lots of studying to do.
Part of learning involved deciding on my fishing hole—my genre. Agents and publishers like slots—and choosing one will determine not only how we craft a book, but also what our story will look like.
What’s your fishing hole?
4. You have to drop your line and reel in the fish.You’re ready to go. You’ve got the tools, you’ve studied. Now you need to sit in the chair and begin. (We’ll talk about inspiration and beginnings next month.)
Here’s where the multi-pubbed author has an advantage. He knows he can pull it off. He’s been in that chair, at his computer, churning out a book or three. If you’re still on book one, determination is going to be your best friend.
As it was for me and fishing. I suppose this is where I need to admit that my goal to be a great fisherwoman has remained a dream.
How, you ask, could I have let that happen?
I got sidetracked. I was too busy enjoying the sunrise or the sail or the scenery to remember to drop my line when the fish were actually biting. I’d grab my rod, but not until noon. And, pretty soon, I became too discouraged to continue, especially when we buddy-boated with fishing experts who’d put out a line about 100 feet from mine and just haul that catch in while my line bounced on the waves.
Sometimes, that happens to our writing. We get sidetracked by life. Or discouraged, because it seems so easy for that other writer. Or someone (such as my non-fish-eating husband) suggests we try something else to bring in the meal.
Sometimes, we just aren’t willing to make writing a priority. And unless we do, we’ll never finish the book—first, second, or tenth.
5. You have to toss back the fish you don’t want—or that aren’t edible.Let’s say we’ve stuck ourselves in that chair, kept our fingers on the keyboard, and finished the manuscript. If it’s your tenth (or so) you heave a sigh and move to the next step. If it’s your first, you may need to consider it an exercise in learning, in craft-building. It may not actually be the one that sells.
Aswith a fish that’s too small or inedible, we have choices. It’s time to pare the excess in fish and words and keep only the best. If this manuscript isn’t it, remember, you’ve finished one. You’ve learned a lot. Which is fine, because practice only improves whatever we’re trying to do.
Now, it’s time to write the next, because that one may just be it.
6. You have to gut and clean the ones you’ll keep.That fish isn’t going to clean himself.
You know the process—write, rewrite, show to critique partners, rewrite, show them again, rewrite, perhaps hire an editor, and then, depending on where you are in the process, get an agent/editor/someone to accept and love it—and help shape it into The Book.
7. And then you have to find the recipe and prepare and serve the meal.I like to cook fish a variety of ways, and I like to eat it. Eating’s good, as is hearing from readers that our words have touched them and given them hope. But the serving part that gets those words out into the world?
The marketing aspect of the book business is a struggle for many. It’s part of the process, so I’m working on learning how to do it intelligently—and I’m using my faithful (sadly part-time) assistant to fill in the gaps while I try to write my seventh book. But if we want readers to enjoy our stories, we have to figure out ways to get them from our table to theirs. Marketing is needful, as they say down here, no matter how many books we’ve written and released. And there are experts who can help us every step of the way.
So, let’s get ready, set, and go land that fish!
Love conquers all? Maybe for some people.
Sailing out of Darkness is the haunting story of mistakes and loss… and the grace that abounds through forgiveness.
Aspen Gold, Selah, and Maggie Finalist
Normandie Fischer studied sculpture in Italy before receiving her BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Known for her women’s fiction—Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather (2015)—she ventured into the realm of romantic suspense with the release of Two from Isaac’s House. In early 2016, a novella, From Fire into Fire, will continue the Isaac House saga. Normandie and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. They now live in coastal North Carolina, where she takes care of her aging mother. You can find Normandie on her website, Facebook, and Amazon.