An Accidental Memoir about Fostering a Dog

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As I have reached the completion stages of my first YA novel, Lately, Queen Mamadou, I started work on a dog memoir. This book was not in my plans and in fact, I was going to rest after completing the YA novel. However, as I heal my grief from adopting a dog out that was a dear friend to me, I also have the motivation to write a dog memoir.

My working title is “Bitch” because this word has the usual interpretation such as what I’m sure family members were muttering underneath their breath when I took the dog’s fate into my hands and found a better home for him. And then there is a new meaning which I describe as beautiful, intelligent, talented, creative, and holistic. Fostering any dog whether that is a family companion or a stray dog in need of a temporary home, involves some spunkiness. People-pleasers should not apply. I have journeyed from a people-pleaser to a spunky b-i-t-c-h. We all need to embrace our inner bitch.

In the meantime, I’m reading other dog memoirs. I read Lauren Fern Watt’s Gizelle’s Bucket List and I started on Kay Pfaltz’s Flashes Song. While I have a different writing style than these two amazing authors, I’m learning about different structures and attributes for a dog memoir. And yes, I read Marley and Me years ago. Didn’t everyone?

DSCN1733I hope I make it through the crazy rough draft writing stage without drenching the world in my tears. I’ve never written a happy memoir. I even placed my memoirs about homelessness on the backburners. I have another memoir slated for me to write in the distant future called Lit Up (From Rock Musician to Spiritual Channel) which chronicles my days as a rock musician in 1980s (1990s) Seattle and my journey into new age spirituality.

But for now, I give my loving respect to Sobaka, a quirky and anxious German shorthair pointer who taught me how to love unconditionally.

BTW, dogs like bitches.

Write it—Tricks to Writing Dialogue

 

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First, I’m glad that I studied acting and playwriting while I earned my BA because those experiences help me write dialogue. Second, all writers need to know that dialogue is not filler for a story.

The best novels fit the dialogue into the glove of the characters’ background, dislikes, passions, and psychological architecture. And finally, writing compelling dialogue propels the story forward, gives the reader insights into the characters’ motivations (and hidden motivations), and fuels the conflicts that eventually lead to resolution.

So, the author must give thought to the dialogue. I prefer to overwrite the dialogue and then condense and delete during the rewriting process. By this point, I have a good grasp of my characters, their backstory, their conflicts with each other, and their motivations. I also enjoy my privy to the plot, the subplot, the climactic moments, and the resolution, especially when I’m writing a third person narrative.

A background in journalism comes in handy too. As a journalist, I interview each of my characters. Actually, I grill them and draw every ounce of humanity from them. I ask them their intentions, their hidden desires, and their motivations, especially in connection with the other characters, even the supporting characters.

Charles Dickens

While I wrote the first two drafts, of my  YA novel, “Lately, Queen Mamadou,” a conflict between best friends, Maggie (the protagonist) and Meghan (a fellow dancer) developed. The eating disorder that Meghan succumbed to heightened the conflict between the two women and also brought the main climactic moment.

A subplot revolves around Danny and JC, two gay dancers and the conflict they experience with ballroom and non-ballet dance. And then to add to the colorful dialogue, I included diverse points of view in the novel because Danny and JC are gay, JC is Puerto Rican, the dance character Monique is of mixed African descent, and another character Deva is an exchange student from India.

But the most fun dialogue to write revolves around Celia, (Maggie’s mother who is a new age hippie) who channels an ancient African queen. Writing that dialogue (of the channel sessions and telepathic conversations) involved channeling on my part. But isn’t that what we do as authors? We’re not just writers by profession. We also include journalism, spiritual channeling, and playwriting in our work. If we observe and listen well, then we also play the role of a detective and sometimes, a psychoanalyst.

Getting back to the topic of writing dialogue. It takes practice. It takes good listening skills and that includes listening to our still inner voice, aka, our intuition. I think that that it’s a myth that writers work in isolation. Yes, we spend time alone with our fingers riding the laptop keyboard. We spend time alone during our research.

And yes, we spend time alone working out the plot, the story, and the other elements of the story. But in order to write compelling dialogue, we must get out in the world and tune our ears to natural dialogue. Watching dialogue on television shows or in movies or even studying the dialogue in novels, won’t help us write our own dialogue. We must also dig deeper into the souls of our characters while keeping our ears tuned to the world around us.

Dialogue creates a dance of ideas between characters. Dialogue lives and breathes as well as, kicking life into our characters and into the stories we write. Dialogue has rhythm, melody, and harmony along with silence as in pauses for the characters to reflect.

Finally, don’t write down the inner chatter in your head and call that dialogue. Don’t send your characters off in a rant about the stuff that matters to you, but might not resonate with your characters. Bad dialogue is the author speaking from their own mind instead of the characters’ hearts. Avoid your ego getting in your way or your dialogue will fall flat. The critics and the readers will notice that the dialogue does not sound authentic coming from your characters’ mouths.

Writing is a road to mastership. It takes practice and years of developing characters and compelling stories, whether you write long or short fiction. The best authors combine raw talent with the willingness to hone their craft. And part of that involves getting feedback about the story development, the character development, and the dialogue. And the best question to ask is “Does this feel real to you?”

I am currently working on the third draft of my sixth novel. I also channel spirits, work as an astrologer, and as a journalist. I coach creatives to be their best selves and to show up fully with their work. Sign up for a session which includes astrology, channeling, and or card reading (along with practical everyday advice for authors). I also accept donations through PayPal if you find these articles useful.

 

Write it—The Process of Writing a Novel

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Perhaps, the excuse why many aspiring writers never write the novel in their head revolves around the messy process we call novel-writing. But if we break the process into steps and navigate through those steps by treating the steps as guideposts, it becomes easier to complete the novel.

After all, navigating your way through 300+ pages and 80K words starts to feel more like a chore or housework with words than it does about following a dream. Yet, authors chug out one novel after the other and keep pushing through the barriers until completion. You can also complete your novel even if it feels like you’re walking on a long road to nowhere.

Five Stages of Writing a Novel:

1. The brilliant idea comes with characters, a general plot, and inspiration.

2. We sit on the idea while it germinates like a seed underground. We procrastinate or we research to build our characters and storyline.

3. We write the first and second drafts and it feels like plowing through a swamp of words, syntax, and worries about writing beautiful sentences. In other words, this is the time when most writers toss in the towel.

4. Then if we make it through the swamp, we begin the revision process which is like cutting a diamond into shape. We toss out perfect sentences, delete characters (who don’t contribute to the story), or we combine characters. We sharpen the storyline. We also perfect the beginning and end of the story.

5. After (if we choose to) having other experienced eyes read and critique our novel, we may or may not do one more revision. But this is also the part where we see the finish line, and we race towards it with the same excitement we experienced at the birth of the story.

This process works for memoirs too.

 

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