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How'd I get into this?

Updated: Jul 5, 2018

Nine months ago I started my book. I’d been thinking of writing it for about 6 years -- ever since my husband Paul, niece Maryn, and I, on a lazy afternoon in Tanzania, had roughly sketched out some plot points. We were going to write it as a joint collaboration; personally, I wanted to get even with one of the main characters. Maybe Paul and Maryn weren’t as vengeful as I or maybe their lives just got in the way - they abandoned it. But the idea of writing it wouldn’t leave me alone. I retired, moved back to the US and started a new phase of life. Then one day I found an adult ed writing course, focussed on “developing your characters” so I signed up. On the first day we went around the room and each student had to describe her book’s plot. In an instant, I’d made the decision. I was going to write this book.

Nine months later and I have a first draft. It does use two of the major plot points from that planning session long ago but I’ve learned that two point plots do not make a novel! I’ve beavered away regularly to get about 70,000 words, which I cannot read with any objectivity at all. Paul has heard me ruminate for hours and made many good suggestions to get me where I am. My best friend, Nancy, who’s smart, analytical, very good with words, but not a fan of the sort of fiction I want to write, has provided essential feedback at several points along the way. Maryn and her sister Brynn (both avid readers with undergrad degrees in literary fields) have generously read parts of it for me. Paul has read many chapters at various stages. I know it needs lots of work but I’m too close to it to know exactly what. It wouldn’t have got this far if those first few readers hadn’t told me it was worth pursuing.

Today I’m sending it to my first beta reader. She is someone from my mother’s book club. She’s also someone who (1) doesn’t know me or the setting where my book takes place, (2) says she reads “for entertainment” and seems to like the same sort of fiction I like, and (3) is a well educated, discerning reader of many years who doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Yikes!

1 Comment

Frank James
Frank James
Jan 04, 2019

Susan I could not be more excited to read your new book. I know only a little about all of Africa but I know some of the people that this vast continent has shaped and that alone makes me interested because the place seems to grab people and simply not let go them. That is actually one reason I have stayed away all these years. Frank

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