Writers’ Block

I’ve just come out on the other side of a dreadful case of writer’s block. For the longest time, if I actually sat down to write, I would stare at the screen, watching the cursor, waiting for inspiration. The experience was so frustrating, I wouldn’t make time to write again for a while.

It was easy enough to avoid. I have my regular work to do, the stuff I get paid for. Working at home can offer lots of opportunities for distraction if I let it. Then there’s just real life. I am the family administrator by default; I’m the one with more flexibility.Writers block

Recently, though, when I sat down to write, I had a revelation. My problem was writers’ block, but it wasn’t due to lack of inspiration. It was due to lack of knowledge. The section of the book I am working on now is the section that requires a lot of experience or information I don’t have.

In this section of the book, Jake is sailing. I don’t know much about sailing a boat. He’s sailing in geographic areas I don’t know. These are things I can’t make up. If I do and I get it wrong, I’ll lose credibility with readers who do know those things. Once that happens, I’ll lose those readers.

So, I’m back at work on research. I’m surfing the web, I’m looking up all sorts of things on Wikipedia, and I’m reading books. I’m reading travel guides and I’m reading memoirs of people who have sailed on adventures similar to Jake’s.

How long does it take to sail from Point A to Point B? What might you see? What could go wrong? Knowing the answers to these questions and more is helping me move my story forward.

I’m working on Section 7 of the book. I haven’t decided if these are chapters, parts, or books, but there are eight altogether. When I am through the eighth, I’ll make another pass through. Then I expect to have a cohesive first draft. I’m pretty sure they say the first draft is the hardest. I hope so.

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What Ending?

Coin TossSince I started my book, I wondered what the ending should be. It was approaching hurricane season. There were pirates in the area. The boat was a large one to sail alone. He could have faked his disappearance.

During my NaNoWriMo, I decided on an ending. Recently, I changed it. I decided my first ending was too predictable. I did some research to check credibility and then I changed the ending. (Oh, that we could do that in real life!)

Have you read Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes? I just finished it and loved it. CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT HERE. It doesn’t end the way you’d want it to. I thought she’d figure out a way to make the happy ending believable, but she doesn’t. The story is better for it. I’m sure it would make for a lively book club meeting.

I continue to change the novel and add depth. I don’t imagine I’ll make another change this significant. Or maybe I will. If I think the story will be better for it.

Thanks for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

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Transition

From the beginning of this blog, I’ve talked about the novel I am writing which is loosely based on my father’s experiences. I mentioned that I have to write this as fiction because no one really knows what happened. My father was missing when his boat was found unmanned.

This blog serves as a transition. It is the last blog where I will mention my father. From now on, I’ll focus on building the story as a novel. I’ll talk about characters (not real people) and choosing an ending. I won’t be constrained by facts or reality. I still need to choose venues for many scenes and homes for different characters. I’ll probably use some real places, but I’m likely to create a few of my own.

CharactersThe leading character in this story is a man named Jake Chambers. I’ll tell you more about him as I get to know him. I’ve read some writers struggle naming characters, but so far these characters have pretty much named themselves. While some of them may have started out based on real people, I find they’ve shaken off such limitations and developed their own identities. Honestly, since I really didn’t know many of the real participants, it’s been easy to let them become their own people. I’ll introduce you to them as they come into the story.

Thank you for following the journey! I welcome feedback and suggestions.

 

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If you’re new here, you may want to scroll down to the bottom of the page to start the story at the beginning. If you don’t have that much time, check out the “About the Journey” tab at the top of the page.

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The Ship’s Log

shipslog1Once I got home, I shared my excitement with one of my half-sisters, my father’s youngest daughter. At the time, she was visiting with her brother, my half-brother. When she told him what I had, he remembered he also had the original ship’s log from the journey and he offered to share it! Before the end of her visit, my sister sent it to me.

When the FedEx package arrived, I gingerly removed the thirty-seven year old log. After all these years, and significant time in the salt air, much of the glue has dissolved and the log has fallen apart. There is mold on the pages. Some of the ink and pencil has deteriorated, but most of it is still readable.

A ship’s log typically documents navigational and mechanical information. But, it turns out my father used the ship’s log as a combination log of the journey and a journal. I don’t speak “sailor” so I will need help translating some of the sailing passages. The journal-like entries add humanity to the content and when I read them, I learn a little about the father I never knew.

shipslog2Now I had my stepmother’s journals, official correspondence from after my father’s disappearance, letters he sent to his father during the journey, the private investigator’s report, and the ship’s log. No one person ever had all that information before!

But there was still that all important missing piece. How did the journey end? How was my father lost?

Before I started down this road, I shared my plans with my father’s other children, my half-siblings. I assured them what I would be writing would be fiction, loosely based on my father’s experiences. I wanted to be sure I had their approval before I began. Each gave their blessing. Along the way, each has also shared memories and materials. In turn, I’ve shared what I’ve discovered.

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The Wheels Started to Turn

The idea of writing a book rolled around in my head for a couple of months. How much did I know? Who could tell me more? My father disappeared in 1977. That was a long time ago.

I know nothing about the Bahamas. I don’t know much about New England where he spent most of his life. And, by the way, I didn’t even know my father.

I left the box on the floor of my office, unopened, for most of two months. Then, in late September, I pulled it out and went through what I had. Once again, I was taken by the story, the reality and the potential. The reality is my heritage, unrealized and forever unknown.

The potential, though, called to me. That was real. The immediate problem was that I’ve never written fiction. I would have to make up a lot of the story, as well as the characters in it.gears

Thinking of the project that way actually made it seem more approachable. I did have some rough information as a foundation. I would invent what I didn’t know and create the people myself. I knew I would alter many of the facts I did have to protect the privacy of the people who are still around.

The wheels were starting to turn.

The Seed was Planted

Last summer, I came in contact with journals written by the wife my father divorced shortly before embarking on his journey. Scattered through the boxes were copies of important papers regarding the boat and the official police report of finding it unmanned, aground. There were many letters between assorted attorneys and paperwork about the salvage of the boat. A preliminary report of death from the State Department was at the bottom of the box.seedling

As I read through the paperwork, I realized, here’s a story. If I were to write it, I knew I would have to write it as fiction because there is so much I don’t know, no one knows. I would have to invent a lot of the story. The seed was planted.

 

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Lost at Sea

PendragonIn 1977, a man was lost at sea while sailing alone in the Bahamas. His boat was found, intact, but he was missing, presumed dead. No one knows for sure what happened. The seas in the area are known to be among the roughest for sailing. There were pirates around. Drug dealing was done from some of the islands near where his boat was found. The sharks were spawning. It was the beginning of hurricane season. He had seriously injured his arm which may have affected his ability to handle his boat. There was reportedly someone who had relentlessly pursued the vintage craft the man had lovingly restored. His life was not going well at the time and he could have staged his own disappearance. No one knows.