Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beginnings of a novel

I should probably be shame-faced to say this, but I started writing the novel Stone and Silt about, oh, thirty years ago.

In my first year at UBC in Vancouver, I sketched out a chapter of the book. (It's the scene where Nikaia's mother gives her a lesson in persevering over adversity, by dragging her into the waters of the Fraser River, and... well, you'll have to read Chapter 1 of Stone and Silt to get the picture.)

Over the years, when a creative mood would hit me, I'd pull out that chapter, written longhand on foolscap. I'd re-write it. And re-write it again. For a long time, I never advanced beyond that scene. It just stayed with me as a simple, touching moment between a mother and daughter. 

I dreamed of expanding the scene into a novel, but it was daunting to think of creating a 60,000-word story. Then, this past fall, four things coalesced that made me get serious about it:
  • The author community I'd come to know on, the Kindle user forum I started several years ago. The authors there represent every level of the craft, from neophyte writers like me, to NYT best-selling authors with multiple successful books - and I've found good advice and encouragement from many of them.
  • My cancer diagnosis of a year ago. Writing has been a good creative outlet for me in between the rounds of chemotherapy.
  • Many scenes in the book are inspired by my three daughters, who are interesting, caring, thoughtful, imaginative, and joyful. 
  • My girls have developed a passion for reading. And that has made me enthralled with the notion of writing a story they might enjoy.
I outlined the story around a mystery, and then fleshed it out with coming-of-age elements and a dash of young romance. It took a month to storyboard it, then three months to produce the first draft. At that point, emboldened, I sent the draft to Red Adept Publishing (RAP), and they were gracious enough to accept the manuscript. Now it's under review by a professional content editor from RAP, which has benefited the book immensely.

The whole writing process has been a joy, and has resurrected for me many vivid memories of growing up in British Columbia. The novel is my homage, my love letter, to the people of the Fraser Canyon, past and present.

Stone and Silt is scheduled for release in Fall 2013. 


  1. I'm going to look up "what is a storyboard" because of you. I've always wanted to write a book.

  2. Ok, I think I need cliffnotes (Harvey notes) on what a storyboard is!!!!!

  3. Hi, Jenny!
    I think everybody does it differently, and there's no *right* way... but what I did was write a line or two about a few key scenes on 3x5 cards. Then I sequenced the scenes until the order seemed right, and added new cards for scenes in between. Eventually I had a deck of 30 cards, roughly one for each chapter in the book.
    I also found it useful to have a separate card for each character, with their names and a description. That helped me keep things straight and consistent in the book.
    Those cards were enough to give me a guide to start drafting the book.
    I also read a really good book about structuring your novel like a screenplay. I'll post a link to that book in a blog post this week!