I sent my novel to an interested agent last week. The epic novel, 642 pages, took years to complete on paper and many more to materialize into intent. I had finally lived enough to see the patterns in my life and to put them down on paper. Of course, the work is fiction, but I’m sure there are traces of me in every character—traces that had not manifested when I was a young whipper-snapper that walked away with my university’s fiction award. My novel reflects my life—my time in Europe, my time in Africa, my maternal side, my loves, my hates, my evolving personality.
I expected to feel jubilant, for some reason. Instead I felt the same sort of jubilation I did on the day I bore my son and held my daughter for the first time—excited, yes, but with a practical inner knowing that much work was now expected of me. I’ve always smiled at all the people who do not write who think of it as an easy and cushy career. If they had been a fly on the wall in chez Ramsperger for the last few years, they may have recalculated their opinions.
Every work of non-fiction begins with a map, an outline. However, this particular novel defied any real mapping or charting. It changed with the characters. For example, I had no intention of putting the protagonist’s or antagonist’s back stories into the novel; I wrote them to find out who my characters were. However, my valued critique group—both my writers’ group (We Seven!) and my dear editorial friends—were fascinated with the back story. The more I wrote, the more I was sure the characters were who they were because of their back stories. So I included them, and in the end, the back stories show that the intricate patterns of quite disparate childhoods made these two characters more similar than different.
No, it wasn’t easy, charting a course without a compass. Yet I can now say I finished, not one draft, but several, of an entire novel. I always tell the elementary school classes I present to that it doesn’t matter if you’re published or not, and I totally believe that publication is the icing on the cake. Of course, it’s nice if people “hear” you and connect with you, if you gain an audience and maybe even some compensation. Yet whether that happens or not, I feel I’ve arrived at a destination I’d always wanted to visit. At 50, I’ve come full circle.
I’ll keep you informed as my publishing efforts progress.