Okay, baby boomers, if you ever wanted to write a book, raise your hands! Yep, there are a lot of you out there. BoomerCafé’s co-founders David Henderson and Greg Dobbs both are published authors ourselves, so we especially appreciate what it takes to get it done. Which is why we also appreciate this story from Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt of Hamilton Square, New Jersey, who finally wrote the novel she always planned to write. It is, let’s just say, a process.
If you are a voracious reader, you might have nurtured the idea that one day — when the children were grown, or you were retired, or things slowed down at work, or things slowed down in life — you would write your novel, the book you’ve always wanted to read yourself but haven’t found.
A surprisingly common dream … but one that remains only a dream and not a real goal for most of us who have it.
In a way, writing your own novel is punishment for all those times you scoffed at the inadequate plotting capabilities of an author, or complained that someone’s character was painted cardboard.
I had been writing mysteries myself for several years in the ’90s, and I did my share of going through the agent/publisher submission process, but receiving only “Nice writing, but not for us at this time” rejections that beginning writers might have reason to expect but will always dread. At the turn of the 21st Century, the idea of another novel was vouchsafed to me, as in, “I am the only one who can write this.”
The problem? I had to learn to write well, because the novel required higher writing skills — orders of magnitude higher — than I knew I had. In a way though, there is a real advantage to writing for baby boomers: you will use every neuron you possess, and build its muscles. You can’t be fuzzy or lazy or incomplete if you are the book’s author; readers will be depending on you to guide them from the title and opening image to a satisfying conclusion, ideally feeling like they’re on a rollercoaster along the way.
Now if you are a natural-born writer of genius, skip this. Or, unluckily, if you are one of those people who can never learn to write, I am sorry. But if you are anywhere in the vast middle, and are fueled by a depth of knowledge about novels from a lifetime’s reading, the rest is learnable. It takes a lot of time, time you could use doing anything else that brings you pleasure. I chose to teach myself, from writing books and blogs, and using software for writing tasks (characterization, plotting, structure, editing) or the production of text and images (word processors, graphics programs).
But the biggest task is to learn to trust yourself.
It was an exhilarating fifteen years. I took time out to write a play, which improves the art of dialogue. And some short stories.
I learned self-editing, formatting, proof-reading, cover design, HTML computer code. I got advice, and some mentors (self-publishers are surprisingly generous).
In October 2015, when I was 66, I uploaded the ebook files for PRIDE’S CHILDREN: PURGATORY to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). I purchased the first copy, and everything was exactly as I had designed it every step along the way.
Six weeks later I repeated the process to put the book in actual print, this time uploading files to CreateSpace, the Amazon POD (print on demand) subsidiary. A few days later, I had the moment every budding author fantasizes about having: I held the paper copy of my debut novel in my hands, a newborn object of beauty and weight.
The main task never deviated: tell the story.
Because, you see, I knew the end.