My 30th Novelby Clare O'Donohue
What talents and skills have come naturally to me?
Being a smart ass. That came early and, though I am a self-taught smart ass, I am remarkably skilled. Though I guess the question applies to writing novels. And in that, I think two things came easy - characters and dialog.
The characters in the books I've written and the ones I've yet to write live with me, especially when I'm hard at work on a novel. I can see them, hear them, feel their pain or fear or joy. I hesitate even to call them characters. They are real people to me. I like things about them, dislike others. We sometimes disagree and there are times when I don't know what they're doing or why. They often surprise me. They also happen to be imaginary, but really, everyone has quirks.
Creating someone, living inside them and letting them live inside me for the duration of a book, or a series, is so easy for me, it's a little unsettling. I had an imaginary friend as a child, Mary Rita. I don't remember much about her, but according to my mother she was pretty much my constant companion when I was four and five. I like to think I didn't so much as grow out of it as learn to make a profit at it.
Also, dialog. I talk out loud when I write (which is why I no longer write at coffee shops) because when you hear the dialog you know if it sounds like something a real person would say. I don't know that I'm good at it, but I think I am. At least it comes easily to me.
Which have I had to work on?
For me that's plotting. When I've passed the half way point, I have to really sit myself down and work through how it's all going to end. I don't write with a formal outline, just an idea of where I'm going. Writing without an outline is like deciding to drive from Chicago to Denver and just heading west, with the assumption that somewhere in western Nebraska you'll look at a map and figure out the details. Odds are by not planning you've wandered a little off the path. That's okay, I think. You go places you wouldn't have otherwise. But eventually you have to drive where you're headed. This is not as much fun for me, so I have to work at it.
What direction would I still like to grow?
When I wrote my first novel, I was momentarily sad for all the people who hit it out of the park on their first novel. To have written the best thing you will ever write first, seems - among other things - anti-climatic. I decided then that my thirtieth novel would be my defining one. I don't know in which direction I will grow (see above on my lack of planning) but I do know number thirty will be a doozy.
By the way, number seven is out on the 24th.