Monday, August 16, 2010


I strained my back muscles Wednesday night. I’d like to tell you that I did it lifting a car off of someone’s foot. But alas, I cannot tell a lie. I merely sat on the couch in my bedroom and felt a familiar twinge of pain that I haven’t experienced for a long time. Years ago I strained my back playing volleyball and every since I’ve fought reoccurring back problems. I’ve even put my back out sneezing. Through it all I’ve learned that back problems don’t go away fast. The healing process takes weeks, sometimes months.

As I thought about this I realized back pain is like writing a novel.

1) You can feel a twinge any time, any where.

An idea for a novel can hit you at the strangest moments. The idea for The Stone Traveler came to me when I saw the movie The Testaments. I was so touched by that film that I wanted to write a book in which a modern character was thrown back in time just before Christ appeared in America. Does the main character in my book see this dramatic event? Well, I'm not saying he does or doesn't. You'll have to read the novel to find out. ;)

2) It takes a long time for strained back muscles to heal.

It takes a long time to write a novel. The writer has to do research, check facts, plot the novel, do characterizations, and then write...and write a lot. For me it takes several months just to get the rough draft completed. And then the fun begins with edits: coloring scenes with words, adding more tension, filling in sensory details and moving sentences around so the right feeling matches the action of each scene. All that fun stuff takes time.

3) When your back has healed you need to be careful at first and make sure to find the right support.

When your book is done you need to ask people you trust to read it and give you feedback. If you give it to someone who doesn’t understand your genre and is very critical you may become discouraged. But if you ask the right people--those who will tell you what’s wrong and what you might do to fix it--then you’ve found the right support for your book. I belong to a wonderful writers group. I know that they want to see me succeed, but they also want to give me the feedback that will help me write the best book I possibly can.

So here are some questions for you:

  • Where do you get the ideas for your books?
  • How long does it take you to write a novel?
  • Do you have the right support?

Now I think I'll take a pain pill the doctor prescribed for my back pain. Too bad there isn't a pill for writing a book. :)


  1. Great analogy! I used to have bad neck issues, but I go to a chiropractor and now I don't anymore. An occasional tweak if I push myself too hard working out or something, but the chiro fixes that right up! You should give it a try. :) I know people think chiropractors are quacks, but you can't knock it until you try it! I promise, it'll change your life.

    Let's see, I get ideas EVERYWHERE!!! When having a conversation with someone, while reading a book or watching a movie, from a dream, from asking What if? at random times. I get ideas all the time from anywhere!

    I'm not sure how long it takes me to write a novel. I finished a 50,000+ word novel in less than a month during NaNoWriMo last November. But I haven't written a novel since then.

    I have amazing support. My husband, parents, siblings, and best friend are my greatest supporters. :)

  2. My first book took two full years to research and write. Then four months to re-edit. The next books will come much quicker. And I do have the support of my family. Any author would be wise to ask for family support before embarking on such an endeavor.

    Stephen Tremp

  3. So sorry to hear about your back Kathi. I know how tough that can be - I hope you're up to par again soon!

    Great analogy :)

    My ideas tend to just show up for the most part - although once I've got the nugget, I brainstorm around it for a few weeks, then off I go.

  4. I love this analogy - it works!

    My ideas hit me at odd times - a snippet of interesting conversation, my subconscious working while I'm trying to sleep, etc.

    For me, writing a full manuscript takes me a long time. I'm a slow writer although I'm trying to pick up my pace a bit. So far, the familiar slow pace is winning.

    I'll have to get back to you on the support. I haven't shared any of my manuscripts with anyone yet but hopefully soon :)

  5. Wow, it's so true! Writing a book is so much like back pain! You've explained it perfectly Kathi. =)

  6. Laura,
    I'll have to give a chiro a try especially if the pain doesn't disappear. I'm glad you've found one that works for you.:)

    I'm like you. Inspiration can happen everywhere!

    50,000 words in a month, wow! I've never done that.

    How lucky you are to have such good support. It's only a matter of time before you're published. :)

  7. Stephen,
    That first book always takes longer. :)

    I imagine it would be very difficult to write a book without the support of family. But I have known writers who have.

    I'm very grateful for the support I receive from family and friends.

  8. Jemi,
    Thanks for your well wishes. I'm feeling better. The pills the doctor gave me work very well.

    I'm kind of like you when it comes to ideas for a book. I'll think of an idea and then work it over for a while to see if there's enough of a premise to make a novel.

  9. Jaydee,
    I'm glad the analogy works for you. :)

    It took me a while to write my first novel. Just keep at it.

    And I hope you find a great support team. You would be surprised how many writers are out there looking for like-minded people. :)

  10. Jaydee,
    I'm glad the analogy works for you. :)

    It took me a while to write my first novel. Just keep at it.

    And I hope you find a great support team. You would be surprised how many writers are out there looking for like-minded people. :)

  11. Take care of your back. This happens to me from time to time, too, and it's always from a simple wrong movement. My ideas are usually just "there." Sometimes I can pinpoint, most times not. It takes me about ten months to complete a manuscript. Sadly, those ten months of writing time do not always equal ten months of calendar time. Life intervenes.

  12. Carol,
    I'm trying to take care of my back, but there's so much to do this week. Thank heavens the pills the doctor prescribed work very well on the pain.

    I hear you about life getting in the way of writing. The last couple of weeks every time I think I can get something done, well you know... :)



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