A Day In The Life Of A Novelist

NM-SR-Header-BonnieToday’s post comes to us from author Bonnie Grove. Her debut novel, Talking to the Dead is a She Reads winter pick.

I believe every one of us is creative in some way. Some knit, some create scrapbooks, some of us garden, or sing, or have a flair for decorating our homes. There are so many ways to live out God’s gift of creativity. (Reading is another way we can express our creative side †” diving into a novel, experiencing the lives of characters as if their world were unfolding around you †” yes, that is very much part of the creative experience!)

Me? I’m a reader †” just like you. And I’m very fortunate to write novels for a living. I’ve loved books since I was a kid, and to be writing them now is a dream come true †” a real “God thing” in my life. But, like all creative pursuits, it isn’t always smooth sailing.

Have you ever read a book you loved and thought, I wonder what went into writing this book? How long did it take? What does this author’s creative process look like? How do writers come up with ideas?

Well, jump in my dune buggy and I’ll take you for a spin through a day in the life of one writer. Come along with me as I struggle with concepts, wrestle with words, and try to make sense of it all!

There are dishes in my sink, kids to be picked up, laundry to be washed, friends waiting to hear back from me. . . but, I’m busy thinking.

My husband, Steve, rushes in the room. “I’m taking the van in to be serviced, Ben needs to be picked up at school and Heather has swimming lessons.”

“Hmm?” I say, not looking up from my computer screen. “Do you think zinnias grow well this far north?”

“What are zinnias?” says Steve.

I flip to another screen. “Would you describe this color as ‘gun metal’ or ‘stainless steel’?”

“Bonnie,” he sighs. “We really need to get going.”

“Where?” I ask, as I follow him out the door. We climb into the van and I say, “Have you ever picked a lock with a pencil? I mean, do you think it can be done?”

“What are you doing in the van?” says Steve. “You have to take the car to get Ben. And where is Heather?”

I get out of the van and walk around to the driver’s side. I tap on the window. “Do you think people eat bunt cake at funerals most often, or are brownies more common?”

“Finger sandwiches, and don’t forget to pick me up at the garage when you are done at Heather’s swim lesson,” Steve hollers as he drives off.

Pretty good. I fish for the notebook I always keep on me and write ‘fgr sands’. I’m sure I’ll know what it means when I read it later. My daughter, Heather, finds me standing on the driveway scribbling in my notebook. “I’m ready,” she says.

“For what? Hey, Heather, do you think someone could climb up that lattice?” I say, pointing to the structure leaning against the house. “Or do you think it would break?”

“Sure. You could do it, Mommy.” She climbs into the backseat of the car.

I hesitate. She could be right, but she’s only four, and I doubt she knows much about it. I write it down anyway. I’m walking back to the house when I hear Heather call, “Mommy? I have swimming lessons.”

“Oh yeah, uh, I know. I was just going to call Ben.” I holler into the house, “Ben!”

“Ben is at school,” Heather says.

I check my watch. 3:45. I’m fifteen minutes late picking him up.

“How was school?” I say to Ben when I finally reach him.

“We had a substitute teacher. He had a big nose,” He says

“How big,” I say. “Big like a ball of dough, or big like a ski slope?”

“Big like a pickle,” says Ben.

“Wow. That’s really good Ben.”

“It is?”

“Yes. Big like a pickle. Good for you,” I jot it down in my notebook, put the car in gear, and head it toward the pool.

I leave my daughter with a girl I’m reasonably sure is her swimming instructor and sit by the poolside. Soon, I’m transfixed by the movement of the water. I mumble to myself and scratch in my notebook. “Hey Ben, what do you think that water looks like? Besides wavy. You can’t say wavy.”

He thinks for a moment, head tilted to one side. “Bumpy.”

I roll my eyes. Six year olds. But I write it down anyway.

After swimming, I head to the library. The kids run for the children’s section while I get lost in the instructional books. I’m immersed in a passage detailing the invention of toilet paper when my son pokes his head around the bookshelf. “I’m hungry, when are we going home?”

“Soon,” I mumble as, once again, I hear the theme song from The Pink Panther playing loudly. “Why on earth do they keep playing that song over and over again?” I say as I write down the name Joseph Gayette.

“Mommy, your purse is playing that song,” Ben says.

Oh, yeah. Steve downloaded it as a ring tone for my new phone. Rats. “Hello?”

“Bonnie,” says Steve. “Where are you?”

“The library, of course. Did you know the ancient Romans used wool soaked in rose water as toilet paper?”

“No. I’ve been waiting for over an hour. I’ve called and called.”

“Waiting for what? Hey, Steve, only fourteen percent of households had bathtubs in 1907.”

“Good to know. Please come and pick me up at the garage.”

“The garage? What are you doing there?”

Later that night, I lay in bed exhausted. I lean over and kiss my husband goodnight. “I’ll be glad when this book is done,” I say. “You don’t know how consuming writing is.”

He smiles and says, “Oh, I think I do.”

You can read the first chapter of Bonnie’s book, here.

You can learn more about Bonnie on her blog or at Novel Matters.

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About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

3 Responses to A Day In The Life Of A Novelist

  1. Christa Allan January 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    SO funny! I loved this because it’s so often how my brain is functioning. And my poor family. . . my daughters almost refuse to talk to me when I’m writing because they say I’m too weird, and my husband just slinks around hoping at some point I’ll come out of my fog!

    But if that’s what it takes for you to write novels like Talking to the Dead, I hope they can suffer through!

  2. Bonnie Grove January 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    I’m glad to hear I’m not alone in my creative fog!

    It’s a wonderful thing when a creative project gets a hold of us. I’m sure most of us has had something similar – in idea that won’t let go, a craft project we can’t stop working on until it’s finished, a book we HAVE to finish even if the laundry doesn’t get done. Some times creativity just spills over!

    Thanks, Christa, for your encouragement! You are SO sweet. I’m looking forward to reading YOU, too!

  3. Marge Majaski January 18, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    Its alway encouraging to see others live in the fog of life. I am not a writer but have a daughter that is an aspiring author…she has several stories started, but seems to put one down to start a new one and never finishes the old ones…I am dying to read the next chapter when alas a new story idea pops up instead. She overly critical of her writing and thinks the stories are not complete enough to catch a readers eye. I am going to send your info on to her, maybe it will help her be a little less critical of herself and her writing. Thanks to the insite of a writers life.

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