“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi
This morning as I was thinking about what to write for this week’s post, serendipity came to my rescue. The above quote was in my email inbox. When I read the quote, I was reminded of the process I’ve used while writing my first novel, The Space Between Time. It spoke to me because it implies the miracle of serendipity. As I’ve been writing my book, serendipity has played a big part in my creative process.
I began writing this novel in 1999 after a visit with my Mom and Dad in Quartzsite, Arizona. My dad had heart disease, and though he’d been active for more than ten years, I could tell during that visit, that he was beginning to decline.
On the five hour drive home, the idea for one of the story lines of the novel came to me. I wanted to write a kind of love letter to my dad with a relationship between a father and daughter reflecting the relationship I had with my father. This is what came to me: In 1858 Vermont, a minister and his daughter are nearly the only family they have. Their relationship is very close. A letter arrives from a former student of the father’s urging them to come to Southern Oregon. The town where he lives needs a teacher and since the town is growing so fast the father could find work as well. Unfortunately, by the time the letter arrives, the father has been diagnosed with cancer. During his illness he encourages his daughter to travel West, which she does after his death.
After a few months of writing, life intervened and I got a full-time teaching job, which took up so much of my time, I had to set the novel aside. It wasn’t until 2010, six years after my father’s death, that I was able to pick up where I’d left off. By then I had an idea, which I didn’t know how to execute, of having a storyline in the present that somehow intertwined with the events in the past. That idea rumbled around in my mind nagging at me for about a year, until one day a guest speaker came to the writing group I was attending.
The guest speaker was a local writer who had published several books, all military intrigue and action, one of which was about to be made into a movie. At the beginning of the session, he asked each of us to describe what we were working on. When I described my book, he said, “You know, you could have a link between someone in the present with the woman in the past. Something unusual like that is kind of popular right now.” I told him I had been wanting to do just that, but I hadn’t been able to come up with a plausible way to make that happen. Well, of course, on the drive home the idea of how to link the two timelines came to me.
As I was nearing the San Pedro River, I seem to get a lot of inspiration from that river, it occurred to me that the woman in the present could find some journals written by her many times great-grandmother and when she opened the first book to read, her consciousness would merge with her great-grandmother’s and she would experience portions of life with her. I knew this was just the right direction to take my book because the familiar feeling of elation descended upon me. It happens whenever I think of the best possibility, direction, or action to take.
For the next several months, I woke up every morning excited to develop the timeline in the present and linking the two women in the past. I liked the way the book was taking shape, but try as I might, I couldn’t think of a title. Whenever I talked about working on my novel, the first question people would ask was, “What’s the title?” I had no idea. Nothing I’d come up with so far seemed right.
Again serendipity came to my aid. It was late in the fall semester 2013. I was driving home from teaching my evening college class and I was listening to The Beatles on my iPod. I don’t even remember the song that was playing but something about the lyrics clicked and I knew that I was going to title my book, The Space Between Time. Again, I felt that tingle in my stomach, and goose bumps came up on my skin. I knew that was the right title for this book.
I finished the rough draft in December 2013. For the next year, I made revisions and found an editor, all the while considering how I was going to promote my book. I don’t have much experience with marketing and promotion. Since I was going to self-publish, I was concerned about how to get the word out about my book to potential readers, but no solutions presented themselves. I was getting anxious.
I think it was in the spring or maybe summer of last year, that a friend I’d met on Facebook, Dorothy Sander, sent me a #FF message, along with several other women, on Twitter. Dorothy is a writer as well and we had exchanged messages on her Aging Abundantly Writer’s Meet Up page on Facebook. Her latest book, Finding Hope: Inspiration for the Midlife Journey, is available at Amazon. You can also find her blog, “Manifest Me” on WordPress. Now I have to say, I’m old enough that I don’t fully understand all the etiquette of social networking. But on the day I got Dorothy’s message, I thought Oh, Dorothy must be encouraging all of the women listed to connect with each other. So, I went and followed each of them and sent them a short personal message. When they followed me back, I sent each one an individual thank you. Since I didn’t send these as private messages, they showed up on the public stream of tweets. The next day I was astonished to find four or five new follows in my Twitter feed. I thanked them as I had the original women, and so my Twitter group began to grow. Each day I would get new followers and every few days I would go and send a personal thank you to each new follower. Often, if I like their profile statement, I’ll follow them back. The day Dorothy sent me that #FF message, I had about 180 followers. This morning when I checked Twitter I found I have 742 followers. Now, I know that’s not a huge amount over a six month period, but by sending a personal thank you to each follower, I increased my social media influence, and I didn’t have to buy followers who aren’t interested in me personally.
Another way I’ve grown my Twitter presence is to retweet posts that I like. Many of them are about books coming out. It’s my way of paying it forward. If I help other authors promote their work, perhaps when I publish my book they will return the favor.
Who knows if my strategy of building a social networking presence will help me create a following of readers. I’m trusting serendipity to continue to come to my aid in that respect as well. All I know is that I’ve met some wonderful creative people along the way. Twitter is just one of my successes in increasing my web presence. More about that in next week’s post.
I don’t have all the answers about how to gain followers and readers. When I think of spending hours reading books, or taking courses about marketing and promotion, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. When I think of concentrating on my writing and devoting a few hours a week connecting with people on social media, I feel much better. So, I’ll let go of trying to control events and I’ll let serendipity be my guide.
Watch for news of the launch date for The Space Between Time this spring 2015.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015