A Time of Firsts: My First Pregnancy and My First Novel-Writing Class

So I’ve puzzled a bit over whether or not to share this information on my blog, mostly because, though I’ve been open about my reading and writing, I haven’t shared much about my personal life here.  BUT…this is something that will affect every aspect of my life, including my writing, and I’ve been working on some poems around this topic, and if they evolve enough, I’ll likely include them here.  I’m about five months into my first pregnancy.  So far, so good.  A lot to think and feel, and moments that have been a bit overwhelming, but I’m on the road forward and looking ahead to a new family member this winter.

In other news, I thought I would try a novel-writing class this summer.  I took one poetry class and a few short story classes as an undergraduate.  As an English major, I did a concentration in creative writing and wrote a novella as my honors thesis.  So while I have taken creative writing classes before, I had never taken a class designed around a novel.  I’ve been to a couple of conferences and attended lectures and workshops on novel-writing, but haven’t done anything more long-term or intensive.

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I signed up for an online class called “Novel Builder” through the Grub Street organization.  A few friends of mine in my weekly writers’ group had taken Grub Street classes before and recommended them (despite the fact that they are a bit costly!).  I decided to go for it.  I have a draft of one novel complete, but have shelved that for future thought while I’m working on another novel, women’s fiction with paranormal elements.

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The course was taught by Matthew Salesses, who has several credentials in fiction and nonfiction writing, including a forthcoming novel, The Hundred-Year Flood.  (By the way, The Hundred-Year Flood is available for early reading through Kindle First, free for Prime readers.  I read it and really enjoyed it! – official release date 9/1/15.  Here’s the link to my brief, spoiler-free Goodreads review)

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Without giving away the content I’m sure Matt Salesses worked hard to put together, I definitely want to say that the course was worthwhile.  Based on the idea that many successful contemporary novels are comprised of twelve major scenes, the goal of the course was to write and receive feedback on six scenes.  Over the course of six weeks, we watched craft talk videos given by Salesses, read the novel excerpts he’d prepared, commented on our classmates’ scenes from previous weeks, and then posted our own scenes based on weekly prompts.

I found it was immensely helpful to consider the structure of a novel at length and from the angle that Salesses presented.  I was able to see my protagonist’s arc more clearly.  I was also able to more clearly see how I could make the plot accomplish what I wanted it to accomplish in order to get my characters where they needed to be.  I enjoyed my classmates’ writing very much, and benefited from their thoughtful feedback, as well as the feedback provided by Salesses.  We are all working on very different projects, but I found each story fascinating, and hope that I’ll be able to keep in touch with my classmates and read these novels in full when they’re ready.

Though I expect things to get very busy in the coming months, with my return to teaching and this pregnancy and whatever it brings, I hope to take another online class through Grub Street.  Feel free to write in about your own experiences or with any questions.  Based on my experience, I would definitely recommend taking a novel-writing class to move your novel forward, and in particular, I’d recommend this one; I can see online that it will run again through Grub Street, starting in October.  I’m hoping to keep putting in as much time as I can on my own novel and I feel a renewed confidence in my ability to finish it (and maybe before our future child is able to read) after taking the course.  Next steps: write the climax, figure out what the ending is for my secondary villain….

In other news, watch out for an anthology on the way from Three Line Thursdaymore news to come!

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“Where There’s Smoke” by Jodi Picoult – Review and Connections

While out and about in the car today, I used the Kindle Text-to-Speech feature to listen to Jodi Picoult’s new (FREE!) short story, “Where There’s Smoke.”  I loved it.  One of my all-time favorite Jodi Picoult novels is Second Glance (another is The Storyteller), and I’m excited that Picoult is again taking on ghosts and their interactions with the world of the living.  I love the way she did this in Second Glance: the novel remains character-driven and has a great plot as it incorporates elements of the paranormal.  Second Glance has a similar feel to Picoult’s other novels for me, and I think the strength of the characterization make this novel accessible, not only to those who enjoy paranormal novels, but to readers who tend to focus on commercial, upmarket, and women’s fiction which might not normally include any ghosts.

In “Where There’s Smoke,” the main character is Serenity Jones, a TV psychic receiving communication from spirits on the other side and struggling as we all do, to live life the best way she knows how.  I really enjoyed the story, finding Serenity easy to relate to despite my initial hesitation over her profession.  Though I’m interested in the paranormal (loving shows like Paranormal State, Ghost Adventures, and The Haunted), I sometimes feel skepticism when it comes to big TV psychic personalities and wasn’t sure what to expect with Serenity.  Well, I loved the story and the stakes that Picoult created for this character and those around her.  I’m looking forward to Picoult’s upcoming novel, Leaving Time.  This novel will include Serenity, and the short story definitely worked to hook me and cause me to breathe a sigh of disappointment when I saw that I’d have to wait until Leaving Time‘s October release date to find out more.

What are your favorite Picoult novels?

Do you find the paranormal interesting?