My first novel, Voices on the Prairie, is due to be released July 23. Naturally, the story is set in one of my favorite places on earth: the Flint Hills of Kansas. The photo that accompanies this blog is one I took last week of a local cowgirl, Richell Bailey, just west of the ghost town of Teterville. This view is one of my favorite scenes on earth.
Here’s the synopsis for the story:
Sunny Morgan retreats to the Lonesome Star Ranch in the Flint Hills of Kansas, nursing wounds left by family tragedies and an unfaithful fiancé. The sounds of the tallgrass prairie and the words of an anonymous poet heal her soul.
Her solitude is shattered one morning while checking fence astride her horse, Starbuck, when a single-engine airplane crashes on her pristine prairie. In the midst of a raging thunderstorm, they rescue Governor Dane Richards and his brother-in-law, Ron Moore.
In the aftermath of the crash, Sunny is vaulted into the unwanted national spotlight as the cowgirl angel.
While charlatans like Moore exploit both the story and the prairie, Sunny believes the Governor does the same.
The ensuing struggle unveils her hidden strength and she slowly begins to trust once more. When Sunny discovers the anonymous poet is the Governor, will the voices of the prairie convince her to love again?
Here are a few lessons I learned while writing this 120,000 word novel.
- Writing is hard work- Without question, that is my biggest lesson; writing is hard work so you have to approach it like you would any task that requires dedication.
- You can’t wait to be inspired- [Tweet “If you wait for the muse of writing to sprinkle pixie dust, your brain will atrophy.”]
- Just start writing- I have discovered my brain starts working as soon as my fingers start typing. If I just start typing or writing, then the brain engages.
- The first draft is horrible- I looked back at my first draft and it is awful. Each draft made me a better writer.
- Editing is even harder work- I tried editing as I went and that was discouraging. So I’d throw a bunch of words on the page so I could get into the story, then went back later and corrected a ton of mistakes, took out parts, added parts, and, in general, worked much harder than I did writing it.
- Listen to the readers- I let a few family members read it and their advice was really good. They’d let me know where the story put them to sleep, or something that a character did that was really out of character
- Your characters have to remain honest to their character- This doesn’t mean they have to be honest characters, but they have to be believable.
- Just let the story tell itself; quit trying to make it fit a theme- I started off with a theme and that bound me up like a straight-jacket with my arms tied behind my back.
- It helps to have a fan- My biggest fan is my wife, Christine, who kept at me and kept at me to write this book. Then she kept at me again. It’s really nice to have someone who believes in you.
The biggest surprise in writing the novel was that as I wrote, the story took directions I could never have mapped out or outlined. It took me to places I did not expect to travel; I saw sights I’d never seen before.
And who knows where your story would take you if you’d just sit down and start writing.