What happens when you sit down to write? Sometimes magic!

A little over a year ago, I started writing again. Well, English prose, anyway. I had written extensively, as a child, but didn’t find a lot of time for it as an adult. Although I did write a complete TV script for the ’80’s show, Moonlighting, and some travel journals that got published in a sail magazine in the late ’90’s.

Like many writers, I had a story tucked away in my mind. Sometimes, it would surface and I would write down bits and pieces, which inevitably were lost along the road of life. Sometimes, it would fill my dreams.

Early last year, as I toiled on my living room couch, working on creating a small, online fundraising business (in languages beyond English, like python and javascript, which were both new to me at the time), the story raised its head again. I suspect it was my brain looking for entertainment when I had spent too long immersed in computer code. It wouldn’t leave me alone.

So I had an idea. If I just wrote it down, then I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. Instead of writing on paper, I typed it into my computer. Into the Mac version of Notepad.

Well, then something magic happened. Given a vessel in which to dump them, the words wouldn’t stop. When I got up to around eighty thousand, I had a problem. My basic text editor became cumbersome and difficult to work in. And I kept crashing it as I navigated through the work, and cut and pasted, and edited. Not the right tool for the job.

On the suggestion of a close friend, whose wife is an author, I checked out the writer’s tools available for my Mac. I chose Scrivener, which I now happily demo to anyone interested in such things. There are several other good ones, but Scrivener has changed my life (as a writer, that is). With it, I’m able to structure the story, write to scenes, and move sections not only within the manuscript, but to entirely different books (there are now four, with lots of supporting back stories and forward stories). Like I said, the words wouldn’t stop.

Late last year, I realized the first book was way too long, especially for an unpublished author, so I figured out where one of its major story arcs ended and split it into two books. The climax was a part of that story arc I hadn’t yet finished, so that was the first challenge–finding a compelling ending. Then, I cut 35 pages from the beginning. Too much exposition. Then ten more. I think it starts and ends at good places now.

Amazingly, I wrote a book, end to end! I’ve been through it many times to edit and tweak and rip words wholesale from the text. It’s really hard!I love my words!

Part of this process has been reading it out loud. It didn’t take long for me to want to hear it as well, so I’ve recorded myself reading it–twice now, from beginning to end, as well as re-recording if I make changes to the manuscript.

It feels pretty solid to me now and I’ve started sharing it. I’m reading it to a friend, who genuinely seems to enjoy it. I read excerpts at reading groups. I’m going to ask a few more friends to read it and let me know what they like or dislike.

I might even share some of it on this blog.

In November, I joined a reading group, where, once a month, we get together to read to each other from our own writings. There’s no critique. It’s just a chance to share. I like hearing the wide variety of subjects and styles.

I also joined a writing practice group, where we gather to write for forty-five minutes, then read what we’ve just written, in its raw form, to two or three of the others. This is really hard! Sometimes, it goes more smoothly than others. It’s a mature group, having met twice a week at the same little cafe for more than twenty years. The only prompt I ever hear is, “today I’m writing about…” Hearing the other people’s stories is the highlight of the day, and sometimes of the week. It’s been a good exercise for me, and I’ve seen my writing improve, which is gratifying.

The other day, I was at the self-checkout at Fred Meyer. The man at the next station started chatting with the assistant about the weather. When I joined in, he became entirely focused on me. We talked for the next hour. He was a real character and told me tales of things he’d done and still was planning to do. Among them was write a book. One of the things I took from our conversation was, ‘just do it.’

I knew this and was really planning to make more progress in this direction, but having someone say it to me spurred me to action. Today, I set up an email account for the books, a Twitter account, a Facebook page and this blog. I now have a logo and a slogan. Things can move forward if you just get started.

Copyright ©2014-17 Ramona Ridgewell. All rights reserved.