Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Few Secrets On How to Finally Begin Your First Novel - guest post by Karen Kondazian, author of The Whip

Happy Tuesday!

I am very glad to tell you tat I have a visitor today! Karen Kondazian, the author of The Whip. You can find my review of The Whip here. I truly enjoyed Karen's book and therefore extraordinary happy that Karen wrote a guest post for Me and Reading.

The blog tour is organized by:

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Karen Kondazian!

A Few Secrets On How to Finally Begin Your First Novel

by Karen Kondazian

The idea of sitting down and writing anything, other than your routine emails, can be daunting at best, but when it comes to starting your first novel, the anxiety can become so overwhelming that you keep putting it off -- and many times the book never gets written! So how can you get yourself to sit down and begin? You know in your heart that you have something you need to say; something that has brought you to the brave decision to write a book. You have a fascinating story idea, a character that you cannot get out of your head, a burning passion to share your voice with the world. And passion (probably more like an obsession) is what you need in spades to keep you going back to work on the book every day. Without discipline and passion, sitting yourself down to write a novel can be like going on a diet: a few days of really trying to be good, then frustration, and finally throwing up your hands and eating the chocolate eclair! So, I would like to share a few suggestions with you, which might get you going with that idea of yours... and might actually help jump-start you toward your dream.

I started my own debut novel The Whip with a tape recorder. One day, I sat down with a glass of wine, a tape recorder (it was that long ago!), a view of the sea, a large yellow legal pad with all the facts surrounding my true-life character Charlotte 'Charley' Parkhurst (1812-1879), and the many questions I had about her.

I turned on the machine. I then proceeded to tell myself stories about her. I would ask myself a question and then conjure up the answer on the spot. I would improvise answers about the important people in her life, her past, her dreams, the things that frightened her, what she wanted and needed from life, her sex life, her spiritual life, her politics, what she would die for, other questions that came out of the answers I had just answered... everything and anything that jumped into my mind. I didn't start at the beginning, middle or end. I just let myself dream out loud, even if it sounded stupid, didn't make sense, or sounded crazy; I didn't censor anything. And everyday I would come back to the tape recorder, with thoughts and questions from the last 24 hours to try to answer. It's amazing some of the things you will come up with if you don't censor yourself and you let yourself go like a wild child!

I also spoke to myself on the tape about why I wanted to write my story, the real truth behind it all-- sometimes that answer can become the driving theme of the book and of the character. Keep coming back to the tape until you feel you have nothing more to say, then get it transcribed and put it on your computer.

Now begin to edit and sort and find the jewels in the mud. Don't worry about writing the book yet. What you have now are fingered stones to use. Most of all you have begun your book; no more blank computer screen staring at you expectantly. You can start at the beginning of the book, if you like, or just write a scene. Describe an image you have in your mind: what your character looks like, why does she want the things she wants, how similar is she to you, how is she different. Write about her background, her family, her lovers, her enemies, all the secret things you might be curious about your best friend... using as well, the ideas you kept from the 'tape recorder.' And by the way, it will all change a million times, like a kaleidoscope (it took me six years and 27 drafts). But, my friend, it is the Beginning. You have actually started your book!

My next suggestion is to take an Acting Class. You can find one at your local college or YMCA, or ask people who work in or love theater, they will know. Why an acting class? Because being an actor and having the training I had, was the most important thing that helped me in my writing. In acting classes you learn Improvisation, where the teacher gives you a situation, a character, and an intention; then you must go up on the stage and improvise your way through the situation, to try to get from the other actor what your character needs. Actors call the driving need their character has their 'intention'-- and it is precisely what a writer must do: improvise scenes with their words, always looking for your character's intention. The class will also teach you how to create a history for your character, how to access your feelings to use in your writing. All in all, you will find invaluable tools in acting lessons that will assist you toward finding things that will truly surprise you, as you write your book.

Also, read for inspiration, especially books that take place in the time period you want to write in. When you read, listen to the writer's unique 'voice'. What did the writer do to make you cry, or laugh out loud? Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove) was a great inspiration to me, as were (and still are) Chekhov, Tolstoy, Tennessee Williams, and many others. Take a writing workshop, hang out with writers, attend lectures about writing, read books on writing, go to art galleries and study paintings and photographic exhibitions. Even going to concerts, it all works to inspire you.

Finally, I want to truly congratulate you for daring to dare -- making the decision to write your first novel. One of my favorite quotes is from the great poet Rumi: “Why do you stay in Prison when the door is so wide open?”

Thank you for taking your time to write a wonderful guest post for Me and Reading, Karen! It is highly appreciated!
Summary of The Whip:
THE WHIP is inspired by the true story of a woman, Charlotte "Charley" Parkhurst (1812-1879) who lived most of her extraordinary life as a man.

As a young woman in Rhode Island, she fell in love and had a child. Her husband was lynched and her baby killed. The destruction of her family drove her west to California, dressed as a man, to track the murder.

Charley became a renowned stagecoach driver. She killed a famous outlaw, had a secret love affair, and lived with a housekeeper who, unaware of her true sex, fell in love with her.

Charley was the first woman to vote in America (as a man). Her grave lies in Watsonville, California.

Happy reading!


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