My guest today, Joanie Walker, gives hope to those who have always wanted to capture their life adventures into a novel. Joanie’s writing journey is a good representation of what writing hopefuls need to do to be successful. Read more about her novel, Drafted to Deceive, at the end of her post.
A late-blooming writer confesses all …
Fifty years ago, I was almost a Spy… I had flirted with D.C. area intelligence work during college, then refused a clandestine assignment with the National Security Agency after graduation, besides having dated a few spooks during my two years serving Uncle Sam as a civilian in Cold War West Germany. All that should qualify me to write a spy novel, right?
So why did I delay a half century to create my first fiction? Well, my marriage to an inveterate adventurer/business man kept my suitcases packed and adrenalin racing. Our saga includes sailing our 38.8-foot Bristol sloop throughout the Chesapeake Bay and bareboating in the Virgin Islands—until the vast blue of the sky beckoned. Our sailboat morphed into a succession of single and multi-engine fixed wings. For twenty years I sat in the right seat while my pilot husband flew us around the country for business and as an Angel Flight volunteer, moving patients to hospitals for treatments or transplants.
I detailed our thirty-two-day odyssey from Virginia to California in our A-36 Bonanza for the American Bonanza Society’s monthly magazine. “From Sea to Shining Sea – Bonanza-Style” was a three-page spread with photos. Nonfiction I could handle (journalism-trained at The College of William and Mary), but fiction I had never attempted.
In early 2016, with my pilot retired and suitcases stored in the closet, I decided to weave real-life adventures into story form. But, how to begin?
When I sent an SOS to my editor friend, she rescued me with writers’ lifesavers like excellent how-to books for novelists, directions to a novel writers’ conference, and links to articles and blogs focusing on successful fiction writing. She also invited me to join her critique group which evolved into a Word Weavers chapter with great fellowship and support each month.
With my detail-type personality, I latched onto the “Plotter” method in formulating my story with timeline charts, stock photos for main characters, index cards noting each chapter’s action, and a binder filled with characters’ backstories and idiosyncrasies. It worked for me.
However, I failed to tabulate my total word count. I emerged at The End to discover I’d written the equivalent of two books, word-wise. Determined to pare down and polish at the same time, I spent months editing the manuscript at least twice, which improved it immensely.
Meanwhile, I learned the value of entering my first chapters in contests for feedback from judges. Before conferences I also paid a nominal fee for critiques by faculty members to gather more helpful suggestions.
By the time I wrote The End again, I had two agents plus a publisher interested in the novel. I signed with the agent who has encouraged me ever since he heard me say at my first conference, “fifty years ago I was almost a Spy.”
See how a woman who was almost a Cold War spy wrote a novel later in life. Click to tweet.
What’s holding you back from writing a novel?
Still stinging from a ruined romance, twenty-four-year-old Christina Hayword opts to leave heartache behind by traveling the world and serving her country. Poised to depart the U.S. for a two-year contract in Cold War Europe as a Department of Army civilian, she is snared by Military Intelligence for some mysterious undercover work halfway across the globe as well.
After initial reluctance, Christina agrees to assist the special task force searching for East German counterfeiters who plot to undermine the West German economy with bogus currency as well as destroy U.S./West German relations. Her mandate: detect suspicious behavior among the civilians, military, and local nationals she meets through her Special Services position in Nuremberg, West Germany.
Despite her resistance to any new emotional entanglements, Christina is enchanted by two valiant team members vying for her romantic attention, besides her ex-fiancé’s appearance in uniform at a nearby installation. While juggling both her regular and undercover work, she finds threads of the Soviet-motivated scheme intertwining both. Remnants of former Nazi operations figure into her ultimate identification of the counterfeit masterminds. When a gunshot heralds a harrowing climax, Christina alone must thwart the counterfeit masterminds to save West Germany and her own life.
Visit joaniesolingerwalker.com for more information about Drafted to Deceive, Joanie’s first novel in her Cold War Conquests series.