Tag Archives | The Guest Book

How I Write A Novel

Everyone writes a novel differently. This is my process and it is by no means the right way to do it. It’s just what I’ve found works for me.

Step 1) I get an idea. Or a character starts talking to me. Or I think of a title.

Step 2) I scratch down whatever comes to mind. This scratching begins an ongoing documentation as I capture the elements of this particular story as it emerges. This includes character’s names, locations, unique aspects, plot twists, random bits of dialogue, what the main character wants, any themes I want to dig into, etc. (This can go on for months or years.)

Step 3) Once enough has emerged and I begin to feel like I’ve got something worth working with, I take a legal pad and brainstorm everything possible that I think might happen in this story. Per one of my writing mentors, Susan Meissner’s advice, I try to have 40 things.

Step 4) I walk away from that list and see what happens—what my subconscious does with those items.

Step 5) I write down whatever from that list has made the cut—and anything else that has come up in the interim—on index cards. I like index cards because they can be moved around. This becomes my scene list and will be what I work with from now on.

Step 6) I start writing. I write in order, start to finish. There has been only one time I got out of order and that was when I was really sad one day and didn’t feel like writing anything happy. So I flipped ahead til I found a sad scene and wrote that. Ideally, I write 1000 words per day for 90 days and at the end of that time, I’ve got a rough draft.

Step 7) I read over this rough draft and make many, many corrections and changes. This goes on for as long as I have until the manuscript is due.

Step 8) When I’ve looked at the document so much I can no longer see it anymore, I press send and, through the miracle of the internet, send my manuscript winging its way to the office of my editor. I try to be happy, take a break from writing, and not immediately jump into another project, though by then several other ideas are usually begging for my attention.

Marybeth’s third novel, THE GUEST BOOK, is this month’s featured novel. We’re giving away a number of prizes so don’t forget to toss your name in the hat if you haven’t entered.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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The Guest Book Soundtrack

Today’s post by our very own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Marybeth Whalen

One of the things I most love to read about when I read about authors’ work is the music that inspired or sustained them as they wrote. So far in my writing, each of my books has gained a theme song along the way—a song that I listened to often to help me get into the spirit of the story. In fact, that’s one of my benchmark moments in my writing process: when I realize I have a theme song for the novel.

For anyone who knows me, you already know of my sincere and devoted love of 80′s music. So when I’m writing I’m usually listening to at least some 80′s music. And my 80′s taste tends towards the lesser-known songs. None of that overplayed pop music for me. I like the songs no one remembers.

One band that I listened to all through the 80′s was Icehouse, an Australian band I discovered as a teenager in a music store in 1985. In 1988 Icehouse had their biggest commercial US success with a song called Electric Blue, a single from the album Man Of Colours. It was the title track from that album that became the theme song of The Guest Book. A few lines from the lyrics served as the epigraph for the book:

He says I keep my life in this paintbox
I keep your face in this picture frame
When I speak to this faded canvas, it tells me
We have no need for words anyway.

So here is the video of Man Of Colours, a song that tells a story itself. A bit of trivia before you watch it: The old man in the video is the lead singer of Icehouse, Iva Davies’, father, a fact that makes me like the song—and Icehouse—all the more.

 

Marybeth’s latest novel, THE GUEST BOOK, is this month’s featured book club selection and as a way to celebrate we’re giving away a number of prizes including a trip for two to Sunset Beach, North Carolina, handcrafted sea glass jewelry, and organic soap from Southern Soap Factory. Read this post for entry details.

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.

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The Backstory Of The Story

I’ve told this story a few times now on various blogs, so forgive me if you’ve already heard the tale of how The Guest Book came to be. But it’s a story I like, one that shows the values of readers interacting with books and authors, which is what we celebrate here at She Reads every day. So I’m going to share it here.

I received a letter in response to my first novel, The Mailbox, a story about a mysterious mailbox on the coast of North Carolina that united two people over time and against the odds. The reader wanted to tell me how much the book meant to her, and to share that reading the story brought back memories of her girlhood days spent at her grandmother’s lake house. She wrote that her grandmother had a guest book in the lake house and that it was customary for the family members who vacationed there to leave a message about what they’d done and enjoyed in their time there, connecting the family members to each other via this simple little book. She shared that when she was very little—too small to write words, her father had encouraged her to draw a picture instead, reminding her that pictures could communicate as much as words.

Instantly an image filled my head—the little blonde girl bent intently over the guest book, endeavoring to make her drawing the best, to say all that she could about a wonderful vacation in this one drawing. But the little girl in my head wasn’t alone. She had this loving father standing in the background, watching proudly as she drew. In that moment, The Guest Book was born.

The other elements—Macy’s prayer, the three men showing up in answer, the final scene, her daughter and mom and brother—all emerged slowly, as I waited patiently for them to. I love this quote from author Andre Dubus about letting the elements emerge: “There’s a profound difference between making something up and imagining it. Imagining it instead is falling into your psyche, your imagination, and finding something that’s already there that wants to come out—instead of you pushing it into the world. “

I am so happy that reader wrote me and shared her story, because her story morphed into Macy’s story. A story I was surprised by, yet so happy to find.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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A Table Of Her Own – The Writing Space of Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth’s Table At Panera

Last month, Kimberly Brock talked about being a traveling writer, an itinerant creative who writes wherever she can find a quiet spot. That would be true of me as well. With six kids and a husband who works from home, the idea of an office is a luxury. I do have a closet, though, if that counts. I’ll never forget when my husband told me he was giving me that closet to do with as I pleased right after we moved in. I don’t think he’s ever given me a nicer gift. I do love that closet.

Recently I did a Q&A at a library and one of the participants asked me where I write. Without batting an eye, I said, “On my bed.” They all laughed like I’d told a joke. But I was serious. I sit on my bed with pillows propping me up and my laptop perched on my lap and type away. It might not be glamorous. I may not have some gorgeous, inspiring view. I may not have framed book covers and news clippings surrounding me and encouraging me to press on. But I have my computer and– by hook or by crook– I’ve  found a place to write.

For this post, I shared a photo of my favorite corner at Panera, a local eatery where I can go write when life gets too noisy and  crazy  at the Whalens. I’ve also used the library, the cafe in Barnes and Noble, and the front seat of my car. The desperate can not be too proud. The point, I’ve found, is not the where. It’s the what. What am I writing? What’s my word count goal for that day? What is my character struggling with?

When I focus on the what, the where doesn’t matter at all. I can write through a child jumping on and off my bed, constant interruptions, and a ringing phone. I can write through loud conversations at nearby tables, the acrid scent of burned bagels, and the endless beeping of cash registers. With a good set of headphones and Pandora, I’m good to go. In all my wandering, I  have found a place to write. It might not be perfect, but somehow, it works.

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.

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Marybeth Whalen In Her own Words

*E-mail readers can click here to watch the video of Marybeth share her inspiration for THE GUEST BOOK.

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.

read more

Literary First Love – Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen

I was a pretty good kid, a rule follower who didn’t want to rock the boat. The only time I really made eye contact with my teachers was when I was talking with them about some book I loved. If I was going to get in trouble, it was for reading when I should’ve been paying attention. I was adept at hiding a book behind my notebook, thinking I was pulling one over on my teacher. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure they knew what I was doing– they were just glad to see one of their students reading by choice.

One of those books was The Prince Of Tides, a book I  discovered the spring of my senior year of high school.  I read  it during class  and in my bedroom and at the dinner table and in the passenger seat of my best friend’s car and anywhere else I could sneak  a few minutes to immerse myself in the story. I remember the boy I had a huge crush on glancing down at the book’s  cover from his seat in front of me. “Why do you keep reading that book?” he inquired. I tried to put into words how much the book meant to me, the feelings it created inside of me, my face– I’m sure– glowing as I gushed. The blank look I got in return told me that things were probably not going to work out for us. Because he didn’t understand the effect this story had on me.

I was carried away by Pat Conroy’s writing– the characters, the setting, the plot– all worked together to immerse me in a setting that was familiar yet mystical. As a North Carolina native,  I knew the South Carolina coast, had been there many times. But I didn’t know it the way he described it, and I certainly didn’t know any families like the Wingoes. It made me look closer at the people I thought I knew, made me wonder what family secrets they were hiding. Through that book, Pat Conroy taught me that it was possible to write about the familiar in a magical way. He made me hope that one day, I might do the same, or try to.

Books, like people, have different impacts on our lives. Some effect us forever. Some are utterly forgettable. Different books have different impacts on different people, based on where they are in life when they read them. I’ve talked to many a person since I read Prince Of Tides who didn’t like it at all. But for me, it was a book that seized me from page one and didn’t loosen its grip until that last scene when Tom is driving over the bridge, having made his choices. It is a book that has stayed with me to this day, a literary first love of the highest order.

Marybeth’s third novel, THE GUEST BOOK, is this month’s book club selection.  You can read the first 40 pages here.

When Macy Dillon was five years old her father encouraged her to draw a picture in the guestbook of a Carolina beach house. The next year, Macy returned to discover a drawing by an unidentified little boy on the facing page. Over the next eleven years the children continue to exchange drawings … until tragedy ends visits to the beach house altogether. During her final trip to Sunset, Macy asks her anonymous friend to draw her one last picture and tells him where to hide the guest book in hopes that one day she will return to find it—and him. Twenty-five years after that first picture, Macy is back at Sunset Beach—this time toting a broken family and a hurting heart. One night, alone by the ocean, Macy asks God to help her find the boy she never forgot, the one whose beautiful pictures touched something deep inside of her. Will she ever find him? And if she does, will the guestbook unite them or merely be the relic of a lost childhood?

 

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.

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The Magic Trick

At She Reads, we work every day to bring you the magic of reading from the most talented authors out there. We want to take you to places you’ve never been, introduce you to people you’d never meet otherwise, and immerse you in situations you’d never get to experience yourself—all by opening the pages of a book.

As a reader, novels have had such power over me. I would put books down and sigh, “I don’t know how that author did that. ” The sigh was part awe, part hopelessness that I would ever be able to do what that author did. But I wanted to. Oh, how I wanted to.

So I began to learn the tricks of the trade. How to create characters a reader gets invested in. How to make a setting seem as real as a reader’s own backyard. How to form a love story that resonates with a reader. How to tap into universal themes that echo in a reader’s heart. I have read so many books on writing, created my own little DIY MFA program. And now I know how they do it. But I have to admit that some of the magic got lost in the learning.

When my brother was about ten, he went through a season of being fascinated with magic. He bought books and kits to teach him how to do magic tricks and joined a magic club in our town. I went with him once to that club, most likely because my parents couldn’t find childcare for me so I was drug along. I remember sitting in that room of magicians all sharing their tricks and—while the camaraderie was touching—there was something so un-magical about these magicians spilling their secrets.

I didn’t want to see behind the curtain. I didn’t want to know the magic. I wanted to be dazzled, fooled, taken for a ride.

I read differently now that I’m an author. I’ve turned into a bit of a reading snob now that I know the tricks. I can tell you who’s doing it well and who cut corners. That doesn’t mean I always do it perfectly. That doesn’t mean I’ve reached the ranks of Houdini. Far from it. But it does mean that knowing the magic makes you more aware when the magic is present. Those are the books we share with you here. So that you can be moved, awed, and stirred by story.

About Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.

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The Guest Book Trailer

*Email readers can click here to view the book trailer.

THE GUEST BOOK by Marybeth Whalen is this month’s featured book club selection. Click here to read more about the novel and to enter all three of our amazing giveaways.

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.

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July Book Club Selection

I must admit that I have a particular fondness for this month’s book club selection. You see, it was written by my best friend and She Reads co-founder, Marybeth Whalen. THE GUEST BOOK is her third novel, and in it we return to idyllic Sunset Beach, North Carolina, the much-loved setting of her debut novel.

This summer marks our third anniversary and as a way of saying thanks for every reader and comment and forum participant we’ve had along the way, we’re giving away three gorgeous, southern-themed gifts: a trip for two to Sunset Beach, a beach-themed gift set, and an all natural soap collection from Southern Soap Factory. Entry details can be found beneath each photo:

Enter into the world of  Sunset Beach, North Carolina!

Grand Prize:  Win a trip for two to Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three-days and two beautiful nights at The Sunset Inn for two people in a double occupancy room; travel and food stipend included, anticipated retail value: $2,000.

Runners-Up: Three runners-up will win ten copies of THE GUEST BOOK. Share the copies with your reading club so all ten of you can enter into Macy Dillon’s world: anticipated retail value: $149.90 each.

Entry Details:  Enter for a chance to win at www.MarybethWhalen.com. Entries accepted from June 1, 2012-August 31, 2012. Winner will be chosen on, or around September 4, 2012.

Marybeth will be on our discussion forum all month talking with readers about THE GUEST BOOK and she’d love you to join her! All participants of this month’s discussion will be eligible to win the gift set above, including: a copy of THE GUEST BOOK, a  handmade, studio-quality sea glass bracelet and earring set (from ArtShak studio in Southport NC, colors may vary from photo), beach themed candles, and a  beautiful beach towel (colors may vary from photo). Each comment left on the discussion is another entry.

We often get emails from readers wanting to make sure they don’t miss our book announcements and giveaways. Easiest answer: sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter. You can do this at the top of our sidebar, on the right. And because we value each and every reader we’re giving away a  Southern Soap Factory gift set (see above) for one new subscriber to our email newsletter this month. (Full disclosure: my husband is part owner in this company. But I can also tell you that this really is the best soap you will ever use. It’s handcrafted, all natural, and smells like heaven.)

And now, without further ado, a little bit about Marybeth’s novel:

When Macy Dillon was five years old her father encouraged her to draw a picture in the guestbook of a Carolina beach house. The next year, Macy returned to discover a drawing by an unidentified little boy on the facing page. Over the next eleven years the children continue to exchange drawings … until tragedy ends visits to the beach house altogether. During her final trip to Sunset, Macy asks her anonymous friend to draw her one last picture and tells him where to hide the guest book in hopes that one day she will return to find it—and him. Twenty-five years after that first picture, Macy is back at Sunset Beach—this time toting a broken family and a hurting heart. One night, alone by the ocean, Macy asks God to help her find the boy she never forgot, the one whose beautiful pictures touched something deep inside of her. Will she ever find him? And if she does, will the guestbook unite them or merely be the relic of a lost childhood?

You can read the first 40 pages here.

Marybeth Whalen  is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The family lives outside Charlotte, NC. Marybeth is the author of the novels “The Mailbox, ” “She Makes It Look Easy ” and the upcoming “The Guest Book “. She also serves as director of She Reads, an online book club focused on spotlighting the best in women’s fiction. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She’s always at work on her next novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links. ” This means if you click on the link and purchase the book, She Reads will receive a very small commission. These commissions help us pay for the site and the services we offer.  

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.

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Sneak Peek and Getaway Contest

 

The Sunset Inn -- Sunset Beach, North Carolina

We normally wait until the first Monday of each month to announce our book club selections but we wanted to give you a heads-up about our July pick. She Reads co-founder, Marybeth Whalen, takes us back to Sunset Beach, the setting of her first novel, in her latest release THE GUEST BOOK. And she wants to give you the chance to visit this idyllic oceanside town.

Grand Prize:  Win a trip for two to Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Three-days and two beautiful nights at The Sunset Inn for two people in a double occupancy room; travel and food stipend included, ARV: $2,000.
Runners-Up: Three runners-up will win ten copies of  The Guest Book  by Mary Beth Whalen. Share the copies with your reading club so all ten of you can enter into Macy Dillon’s world. ARV: $149.90 each.
Entry Details:  Enter for a chance to win at www.MarybethWhalen.com. Entries accepted from June 1, 2012-August 31, 2012. Winner will be chosen on, or around September 4, 2012.
THE GUEST BOOK is now available for pre-order. Make sure to grab a copy in time to join our month-long discussion in July.
Twenty-five years after she began exchanging drawings with a mysterious boy in the guestbook of a Carolina beach house, Macy Dillon is back at Sunset Beach—this time toting a hurting heart and a broken family. Will she be able find the man whose drawings moved her so deeply when she was a child? Questions of childhood, loss, and longing for love are explored in author Marybeth Whalen’s touching and thought-provoking,  The Guest Book.
Marybeth Whalen  is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The family lives outside Charlotte, NC. Marybeth is the author of the novels “The Mailbox,” “She Makes It Look Easy” and the upcoming “The Guest Book”. She also serves as director of She Reads, an online book club focused on spotlighting the best in women’s fiction. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She’s always at work on her next novel. You can find her online at www.marybethwhalen.com.
We would love for you to enter this amazing contest. But remember, you must do so at Marybeth’s website!
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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.

read more