Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Writer’s Life: Back to My Roots

From news articles and press releases to blog posts and research papers, non-fiction writing of all forms has been a continuous part of my life throughout the past 10 years. But what many people don’t know, especially those who have only met me during this specific timeframe, is that fiction was my first and foremost passion long before I ever took my first undergraduate journalism course or accepted my first position as an editor.

From as early as I could put pencil to paper during my elementary years, I’d love to let my imagination run wild, constantly concocting new tales based upon characters and settings from my favorite books or TV shows, or rooted in my own original daydreams. Throughout middle school and high school, I avidly wrote poetry and short stories for publication in the school’s literary journal, and even began work on my first novel. While this was a project that took off with a great deal of energy and passion, it somehow fell by the wayside once I started college and found myself overwhelmed in a world bursting with new insights, relationships and directives.

Here within this dramatically altered reality, my childhood musings suddenly seemed immaturely silly, and rather than simply allowing my story concepts to grow and mature as I did, I found myself casting them aside for the more practical and reliable stability found in factual writing. Safe within this realm, I could pursue my passion without pouring my own heart and soul onto the page for all to critique and judge as they wished. 

Image Source: 
This new path was rewarding and inspiring in its own way, and over the years, I’ve been proud to fulfill many of the goals I set out to accomplish. But still, no matter how much time may have gone by, my dream of becoming a novelist is one that simply hasn’t died and has only grown stronger since I began my master’s in publishing program, where I’ve found myself thoroughly consumed by the ins-and-outs of the business. Like long-lost friends who just won’t give up on the chance to reconnect, my characters are alive and well inside my head, constantly filling my mind with new ideas and roadmaps to make their story richer as they strive to spill out of my thoughts and into print.

That’s why last November, with renewed ambition, I once again started writing my historical novel, beginning back at square one with a concept loosely based upon the initial idea I had so long ago, but one that is now much better-developed and more thoroughly takes into account the life experiences I’ve had throughout the past decade. Though the fears of failure and criticism still at times terrify and threaten to paralyze me, I ultimately realize that it’s far better to try and fail than to avoid trying at all. 

Image Source: A Round of Words in 80 Days
So, what’s the point of all this? To stay on track and make sure I take reasonable steps toward pursuing my goal, I’m linking up with A Round of Words in 80 Days, an online community of writers who set measurable goals for themselves throughout a series of 80-day sessions each year. While things may get frantic given the three graduate classes I’m currently enrolled in, it’s my hope that by joining this group and setting these goals, I’ll be better compelled to give my personal writing the same attention I would a work or class assignment.

Are you still reading? If so, here’s a quick glimpse at my goals for the first round of ROW80.

1) Consistently write at least 2-3 High Heels & Flip-Flops blog posts each week. Though it may be hard to justify this priority when the going gets tough, the simple fact that blogging helps me relax, offers a creative release and allows me to connect with a like-minded, supportive community makes it well worth the effort. And while every post might not represent the height of great writing, it is writing nonetheless, and a chance to continue pressing onward in whatever small way that might be.

2) Finish reading at least 1-2 novelist advice books to help refine my technique and focus. Considering that I've got two of these already in progress, this goal should be very achievable. 

3) Complete the remaining historical research necessary to flesh out my plotlines and ensure their accuracy. I’ve made good progress with this goal throughout the past couple months, while I’ve simultaneously devoted a great deal of time to outlining my various story structures and sections. I know without a doubt that the stronger my historical knowledge base is going in, the faster I’ll be able to complete my first draft with confidence.

4) Complete 50 pages of solid opening content by the March 22 deadline. Depending upon how busy things get once my courses are in full swing, this goal may end up being either too ambitious or not ambitious enough. I'll play it by ear and revise the goal as needed, taking into account the fact that my progress on the opening chapters has thus far been quite slow. As you can imagine, I'm putting a lot of thought into how I can best introduce my characters and establish their personalities, and while moving along so slowly may not be the ideal, it’s certainly better than not moving along at all.

And there you have it, my renewed mission for the first several months of 2012. What are your goals and dreams as you move forward this year, and do you have any advice or insight to help an aspiring writer?   


  1. I don't have any advice but I have all the support in the world for you. I am so inspired by this huge undertaking of a NOVEL. And the RESEARCH it will take! This is truly a commitment and I know that you will do wonderful at keeping it and writing that work. I would buy a copy and metaphorically HOM NOM NOM it until I'd read it all, "licking my fingers" after the last page.
    You've inspired me to not be so hard on myself and my sketching, and to continue doing it again.

  2. Good for you! This is an amazing goal, and I know you will reach it, for sure. I'm glad that you are looking for ways to stay creative in the midst of everything else that you have going on. Good luck!

  3. I'm glad you decided to join up with ROW80. Best of luck with your goals. The great thing about this writing challenge is that if at any point in the round you realize you need to tweak your goals, you can! We all have lives outside of writing and it can be tough to balance it all.

    As for your first 50 pages, my advice is to write them without worrying so much if they're "right." Most writers' first drafts are far from right, and that's what revision is for! Just get the words down on the page, with the knowledge that nobody else needs to read it until you want them to. Don't spend so much time on a scene or chapter that you don't make forward progress. You're going to do great. :)

  4. Love your goals! I think it's fantastic that you are undertaking a novel. I enjoy reading them, but never imagined writing one. I hope you will keep us updated on your progress!

  5. great goal.. i need to keep working on some for myself! hoping once i move i can get focused!

  6. It's so great that you're getting back to your passion for fiction and your historical novel. Your plans and goals sound right on target and definitely do-able in the 80 days. Have fun!

  7. Good for you! Love these goals. Can't wait to see your historical novel! :)

  8. This is fantastic! I cannot wait to read more about your historical novel, I know it will be amazing. I think these are all great goals and 2012 is just getting started!

  9. Wow! I hope you reach all your goals! Can't wait to hear more about your novel!

    xoxo, Nali

  10. what a great list of things to complete and keep you motivated. good luck with this, i know you'll reach your goals.

  11. WOW Heather, you are an inspiration, way to go, wishing you the best in reaching your goal.

    I have always wanted to be able to write a book but being that English is not my first language I am not very confident about my grammar.

    Good luck!

  12. i absolutely love that you're going to work on a novel! i think that's going to be really amazing. you and your love for writing is an inspiration :) i'm also excited that you'll be blogging more too. i really need to get back into my blog but i keep putting it off because i just want to chill and do nothing. you make me want to blog more!

  13. Welcome to ROW80, which I joined last November with the beginnings of my own novel also. It's a great, and growing community of writers - a couple of them (as far as I can remember) are also studying while writing. I'm sure you'll find them as you go.

    Best of luck with your own goals.

  14. I tagged you. Check out my post today to see what to do.

  15. WOW! You're ambitious. I can't wait to hear about your results.

  16. Good for you Heather! I'd love to be among the first to read your novel. I'm sure even if I don't get it thought you I'll be picking it up as soon as I hear about it ... hisotrical novels are great, and I LOVE your blog writing, so I know I'll love your book :)

  17. Love that you connected with ROW80, it is such a supported way to write!

    Great goals--I can't wait to see how this shift works out for you!

    Good luck!


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