The Adventure of Writing a Book, Part 25

A writer’s experiences in life are useful in a writing fiction.  That’s what empowers a book, that’s what keeps readers reading far into the night.  They can’t put it down, because it’s so REAL.

I was stuck in my new book, “Losing It”, about a woman who must become homeless to escape a vicious killer.  A well-known agent rejected my book and told me that I was “telling and not showing”. 

Looking over the first 50 pages, I realized she was right.  My journalism background had taken over my book.  After the first few pages, my novel read like a newspaper report.  Laura did this and that, but with no feelings, no intimate descriptions of the day, the moment, the sound of someone’s voice, the rain, the wind.    

I’ve interviewed many homeless people.  I’ve heard stories of what it’s like to be out there, alone and afraid, with no resources.  I’ve listened to tales of hunger and want, of going for several days without food.  Of dumpster diving behind fast food stores to find remnants of other people meals. 

But I had never been homeless myself. 

Until two weeks ago when my husband and I left our quiet peaceful home in Ocean Isle Beach NC to flee Hurricane Florence.  We headed for Gatlinburg TN, a favorite vacation spot for us, high and away from the winds and floods. The drive took longer than expected because everyone was evacuating the Carolina Coast. We were in the middle of nowhere late that night with hours of driving remaining.  We finally found a third-class motel in a not-so-nice area that had a vacancy. It was late and dark and scary.   

The next morning, we finished the drive and stayed for two weeks.  The whole time I was there, I felt disoriented.  All our belongings were in harms way back on the Carolina Coast.  All I had with me was my cell phone.  We were safe on a mountaintop, but I experienced something totally new:  uncertainty, not knowing what’s coming next.  I had 16 days to think about it.

Now I am hard at work, revising “Losing It” from a whole new perspective.  My house is fine and we’re back in it but I have a new understanding and empathy for the homeless.

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