January 2014 through December 2014 - Page 7

by Jessica Ferguson G race Greene wrote her first full-length novel during the pre-Internet era—no online support groups or resources. She didn’t know any writers personally, and let rejections discourage her. Her life was busy with children, and as her children got older, her life got even busier. From time to time, Grace started a new book, but she never got far before giving up. About eight years ago, an idea popped into her head. Grace vowed that no matter what, this time she would not stop until the story was finished… and published. “I entered that novel in the Amazon Breakthrough contest and it did well, but didn’t win and wasn’t published, for which I’m actually grateful.” Still, the encouragement Grace received opened the creative floodgates. She wrote and she wrote and she wrote. When Turquoise Morning Press offered Grace a contract for the results—Beach Rental and Kincaid’s Hope—the excitement was almost overwhelming. She felt she’d earned the title of author. Today, Grace can’t write fast enough to keep her fans satisfied. “I work full-time at a day job and write in the evenings and on weekends. I have a wonderful job that I enjoy very much, but it is increasingly difficult to give both jobs the attention and energy they need. I am hoping to be able to write full-time at some point in the future.” Grace writes all over the house. Using laptops. Plural. “Sometimes I write at my desk in the morning room with my view of the woods. Sometimes I curl up in the recliner. Sometimes I’ll stand at the kitchen counter with my laptop. I write best first thing in the morning, but that can only happen on Saturday mornings. I jump into the writing with only the tiniest idea of what I’m writing about. I’m good until about thirty thousand words, then suddenly I flounder.” When the floundering comes, Grace asks, “What has happened in the opening chapters? What should happen next? Where am I going?” At that point, she pulls out white boards and dry erase markers, and breaks down what she’s already written into a list. “Because I don’t plan ahead, I have to do more revision than those who outline. I tried outlining but then didn’t write the book because I already knew how it ended. I like taking the trip along with the characters.” Grace followed all the “must do/can’t do” rules she’d heard from other writers and read in writing books until she realized there are few hard and fast rules. “I thought my publishing future depended on adhering to those rules. When I accepted the contract offer from Turquoise Morning Press, those rules began to lose their hold on me. Now that I am publishing on my own, I understand that those rules of writing aren’t necessarily rules, but guidelines, and sometimes just well-intentioned suggestions.” She believes the best way for new writers to determine what’s true, false, or productive for them is to just write. “There are times when it all comes together, when the words are right and you feel it resonate in your heart. Those are the best times and my favorite part. It’s when the characters say, ‘Come along with us. We have a story to tell you.’ ” Grace doesn’t belong to a critique group. Besides not having the time, she confesses she doesn’t think she’d do well in a critique group. “I’d never want to impede someone’s progress by inept words. For me, something as simple as a bad review can steal away a whole day of writing. In that same vein, I protect my own writing effort, as well as that diffident muse I rely upon—it’s my responsibility to respect and nurture the gift of the work.“ When it comes to the finished manuscript, Grace involves the entire family. “My two wonderful daughters-in-law are my beta readers, as is my sister. They each approach a story differently so their viewpoints and opinions are diverse and very helpful. My husband is my greatest supporter.” In fact, her husband convinced her to give that very first book another try. “I began re-writing it—significant, total rewriting and revamping—and published it in April 2014 as Cub Creek, my fifth novel. I’m working on the sequel now. I’ve had requests for a sequel to A Stranger in Wynnedower, too, and that’s probably on the future agenda, also. And surely another Emerald Isle beach book. You can never have too many beach books!” Her fans agree. n Southern Writers 7