Monday, June 4, 2012

Learning to write and bike. Not so different

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This week I'm delighted to welcome debut author Donna Galanti as my guest. Her first mystery, A Human Element, was recently released in print and eBook.
I’ve always loved bike riding. And been a daredevil at it. In the words of Goose and Maverick “I feel the need–the need for speed!” (That applies to skiing too, but speed there ended up in cartwheeling down the mountain to exit on a stretcher. Ahem.)
But back to the open road. Loved biking it ever since I was seven and flew down the hill to crash and burn winning some nasty road rash. Move on to when I was eleven and would bike four miles into our one-stop-sign country town for a popsicle. I had no problem knocking on stranger’s houses on the way back for a drink.
Fast forward to being 30 years old and trekking out on a hand-me-down, rusty, three-speed bike to explore my new place in the country where I lived alone. I shot down random roads at whim. Dark fell. I was totally lost. How to get home? Once again, I knocked on some stranger’s house, this time for directions. I limped back for miles in the pitch black night jumping in the ditch each time a car came barreling along.
Yep. Out on the road alone, no helmet, no water, no headlight, no idea what rules-of-the-road were, and certainly no cell phone. I didn’t know what I was doing and was not prepared at all.
How did I even manage doing it without knowing all I needed to know and being fully equipped? I just did because I loved it so much and couldn’t stop.
It occurred to me that this is just like writing a book. When I sat down and wrote my first book (the manuscript still collecting dust on a shelf) I had no concept of how to do it, what the rules were, or what tools I needed. I just did it. I loved it and how no idea, like my old-days of biking, how unprepared I was. I didn’t know what point-of-view was, head-hopping, story arc, tension on every page, sub-text, plot layers, or personal stakes were. Among many other things.
I wonder now how in the world I even rode wrote before without knowing the rules. I think it was wonderful that I didn’t know the rules. If I had I might have been too overwhelmed to try. It was fun. It was exciting. I couldn’t stop. I had fallen in love with creating stories. I wanted to do it again and again. And I did.
Just like biking. I eventually got a decent bike, helmet, mirror, and all the other gear, and learned the road signals to ride safely (thanks to my sweet husband). I learned to always be prepared. This meant riding with a buddy if possible, telling someone where I would be headed, taking my cell phone, wearing a helmet, carrying extra tire tubes and tools, and bringing water. And I’m glad I did. It helped the summer day two years ago when I crashed and split my helmet open. I survived my crash and burn then because I was prepared.
Since writing that first dust-collector book I have armed myself with writing tools and been learning the rules of writing. This involves going to writing conferences, participating in workshops, reading self-help books from the writing masters, and using editing services. I may have crashed and burned with my first book, but it taught me one thing. I survived it and could write a book. I could write THE END. And that is what motivated me to keep going.
I still don’t have it all down, but I know enough to write a better book now. And I’ll keep learning to write a better book after that. Why? Because like any addiction, I can’t stop. Nor do I want to. And if you love doing something enough don’t you want to be the best you can be at it?

About A HUMAN ELEMENT by Donna Galanti:
One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next.
Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a mad man, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test.
With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.
Reviewers are saying…
“A HUMAN ELEMENT is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart. Highly recommended.” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author of DEAD OF NIGHT

Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense novel A Human Element (Echelon Press). Donna has a B.A. in English and a background in marketing. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Horror Writers Association, SCBWI, The Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, and Pennwriters. She lives with her family in an old farmhouse in PA with lots of nooks, fireplaces, and stinkbugs.
Connect with Donna here:
Purchase A HUMAN ELEMENT here:
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DonnaGalanti said...

Ellis, thanks so much for having me on! Biking and writing are two of my favorite things, so was fun to make the connection.

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Wonderful analogy. I understood perfectly. I went through the same process of riding into the darkness unprepared, then getting assistance along the way. Now when i write, I can be better prepared. I may not have all of the equipment, but I know where to obtain them and when they'll be important.

Bernadette Walsh said...

Great post. I agree sometimes you just have to do it!!

DonnaGalanti said...

Stephen, you said it! Even if we aren't prepared but know how to find the right tools we are on the right track.

Bernadette, I am doing that now with my sequel. Strayed off the outline but loving the new places am going - so just "doing it" and see what comes of it. :)

Ellis Vidler said...

Donna, I crashed my bike more times than I can count--guess I've done the same with writing. Good analogy.
So glad to have you here today. I have your book--just started it. Looks terrific!

LD Masterson said...

As I strap a bike helmet on my grandson and remind him of all the "rules", I remember the joy of riding free and wonder what other joys we're stifling in our children. Will they be able to face that blank page and just write?

DonnaGalanti said...

LD, I too remember free-riding and a stickler now for helmets, especially since I may not have survived my bike accident without it. Scary!

But I like to think we arent stifling our kids too much with creativity. My son is an only child like me so had to learn early on to play alone. I love eavesdropping on him as he takes his dreams and expands on them in play in his room. He says he doest it so that he can keep his awesome dreams alive. I like this concept for us adults too! :)

DonnaGalanti said...

Ellis, thanks for reading A Human Element. I also have Cold Comfort and Haunting Refrain on my kindle (cant wait to get too!) - love the covers too!

Polly Iyer said...

Great post, Donna. I can't relate to the bike riding, but your description of writing parallels mine. Didn't know what I was doing, but I couldn't stop doing it. Learning to write well is a long, exhilarating process, and ignorance in the beginning is essential. If you knew then what you didn't know, you'd quit from the realization of how much you had to learn. Your book sounds intriguing. Glad you stuck with it. Another great guest, Ellis.

DonnaGalanti said...

Hi Polly, glad it resonated with you and I'm not alone. I think as writers we must simply write even if at first we dont know what we're doing...and if we are true storytellers we can learn the craft as we go to tell our stories the best we can.