Jessica Rosenberg never imagined that she would one day be a novelist. Yet she has just released her first book, Aloha Also Means Goodbye. In the following post, she shares with us what she learned about herself in the process of writing her first book:
I never used to think of myself as a writer. I studied English lit in school with the vague intent to eventually go into advertising. And then, one day, at a terrible dead end job, I started blogging, and I fell in love with the art of crafting a really good sentence.
Then I started thinking up stories and the rest, as they say, is history.
Years later I find myself the proud author of my first published novel, Aloha Also Means Goodbye. Along the way I’ve learned a few things about myself as a writer.
1) I’m not quite a planner, not quite a “pantser.”
Some novelists sit down at the computer with a vague idea of a story in mind and they crank out words, letting the story dictate itself as they go. These people are “pantsers” as in, they write by the seat of their pants. Others dream up an idea and then plan out the entire novel, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, before ever sitting down to flesh anything out. These people are planners, for obvious reasons.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I like knowing the broad strokes of the story before I get started, but I need to let the scenes write themselves.
It helps me to jot down a few bullet points about the next chapter every time I finish one, but that’s just to make it easier to get back into focused writer mode rather than a set in stone guide for the next day’s writing.
2) I like some characters more than others… and it shows.
When I sat down to write Aloha Also Means Goodbye I had a really good feel for Jo and for Sadie. The other characters were more like vague ideas of the people they could be. As I discovered while writing the first draft and then heavily editing it, all of the characters have to be just as tangible. Firstly because your main characters need the others to help them tell their tale, secondly, because you just never know who your readers are going to relate to.
So I fleshed out everyone, but I was never able to feel the same level of familiarity and comfort with all the characters. If you read the novel closely, you can probably guess which ones.
3) I get really easily distracted.
I wrote most of Aloha while sitting at my local Starbucks. There are a lot of distractions there. A lot. But even when I sit at my desk at home I can find a million reasons not to write. Laundry. Dishes. Puppy needing to be walked. Urgent Buzzfeed posts needing to be read. Critical Facebook posts needing to be shared. It never ends.
I’ve discovered that I need a good hour of futzing around (while sitting at my desk) before I can get into prime writing mode. Of course, last year, that meant that 20 minutes into the “zone” I had to leave for Kindergarten pick-up. Oddly this year, despite not having to be at school at 11:30 I still don’t get all that much more writing done. Huh. I should look into that. You know, after I see what’s happening on Facebook.
4) I don’t like writing the “hard” scenes.
There are always scenes in a book that make the author have to dig a little deeper to write. For me it’s anything mother/daughter father/daughter related. They make me cringe and I find myself putting them off again and again and again. And then, when I force myself to write them, I’m fully capable of lying to myself as I’m writing it so that the scene comes out shallow and boring. Then I have to scrap the whole thing and start again.
I have to remind myself often that if it doesn’t make me cry as I’m writing it, it won’t make anyone cry as they’re reading it.
And yes, I have made myself cry while writing at Starbucks. It’s just as embarrassing as it sounds.
5) I’m terrible at the promotional stuff.
I thought that writing the first draft would be the hardest part of writing a novel. Then I thought that editing the whole thing multiple times would be the hardest part. Now I know. The hardest part is having a good friend come up to you gushing about this book that you’ve written, and having to look them in the eye as they talk about what you wrote.
I swear I’d rather strip and dance in front of them. It would feel less intimate.
Having to wave this book that I’ve written and beg people to read it is the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do as a writer. It’s akin to baring my most vulnerable self for the world to see and then pleading people to look at me.
I may be an extrovert at heart, but self-promotion doesn’t come easily to me. Do me a huge favor and tell your friends about my book so I don’t have to do it myself. K? Thanks. I’ll be eternally grateful.
Aloha Also Means Goodbye is the story of a girl, Jo, who heads to Hawaii to renew her wedding vows with Jordan, the man who saved her when she was beyond broken. When she arrives on the island she discovers that Andy, part of the reason she needed fixing, is there too. With the help of her two best friends, and despite the meddling of her mother, Jo has to face down her past in order to move on with her future.
Jessica Rosenberg blogs at http://itsjessicaslife.com and can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/kikarose or facebook.com/JessicaRosenbergFP please come chat with her. She’ll welcome the distraction.