The Accidental Writer

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 Tana French (whom I LOVE) on accidentally becoming a writer (from this interview):

“She didn’t quite know how, though, as she hadn’t ever tried writing in the past. ‘I thought I could never write a proper book, I’d never done it before. But I thought I could write a sequence. Then I had a chapter. The next thing I knew I was turning acting down,’ she says. ‘I wanted to find out what happened. I don’t outline or anything, I don’t know whodunit … I really wanted to know what on earth happened to this guy, and the only way to find out was to write it.’ She tentatively sent the finished manuscript to an editor friend, to find out if she should ‘shove it under the bed or keep going’, and shortly afterwards ended up with a two-book deal. Then came the awards, the sales and the critical acclaim.”

As I go through the querying process, I’m reminded that every brilliant writer had to get their start somewhere. I’m nowhere near Tana French levels of genius–I imagine if she had had to query, the first agent to read a sentence of her writer would have jumped on it–but like her, I’m just going to keep going.

To Prologue or not to Prologue?

prologue

Seems like every piece of writing advice I stumble upon lately has one thing in common: ditch your prologue.

Especially if you’re a first time writer. Especially if you’re querying (this article sums it up pretty nicely). In my massive (to me) cutting down of my novel, I decided maybe I should follow that advice. I chopped out my prologue.

Then I happened to mention this decision to a few of my beta readers. The response?

“I LOVED the prologue! You need to keep it in!”

Even my friend the self-proclaimed “prologue-hater” said, “You must keep the prologue. It added a lot to the story and I kept thinking back to it as I was reading.”

So I added the prologue back in…
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70th Anniversary of D-Day

Voie des Francais Libres

I know there’s a lot going on today–Friday! TFIOS!–but I still think the best thing about today is that it’s the 70th anniversary of D-Day. An important turning point of the last indisputably “good” war America fought in, a day so many sacrifices were made.

Ten years ago I was studying abroad in Dijon when two friends and I decided to hop the night train to Paris and then on to Caen so we could be there on the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. It was an interesting trip to say the least–trips you don’t plan at all always are–but we do have some good memories of that day. (And some super unsophisticated photos, like the above–I used to think it was cool to date-stamp every photo, though it does come in use here, in case you think I’m lying.)

There were a lot of old men in uniform that day, and I just stared at them, thinking of the stories they could tell. My Papa is 94 years old and has dementia, yet he can still recall that day with amazing clarity (He didn’t land on those beaches, he disembarked at Le Havre, which is probably why he’s still with us).

Little did I know at the time that in a few short years I would spend an entire year of my life living and working in Saint-Lô, a little-known yet extremely important Normandy town in terms of World War II history. Little did I also know that I’d be inspired to write a novel that revolves around the events of that fateful day and what happened to a town caught in the crossfire–a town later dubbed “The Capital of Ruins”.

Saint Lo monument

To the memory of the victims of the bombardment that destroyed the town of Saint-Lô, the 6th of June, 1944

Whatever I or anybody else writes, we can never do justice to what happened that day and the horrible ways in which so many people died. But we can try. I think that’s the beauty of stories, as opposed to historical texts; the attempt to take us into the lives and minds of the people who lived and died on that day, what they thought, what they felt.

Tonight, I’m going to rewatch Saving Private Ryan or The Longest Day, whatever my dad feels like watching (he’s a huge history buff). I’m going to drink some Calvados and be thankful for my Papa and every other soul who was there on that day, fighting for freedom.