After my trip to Rwanda in October 2012, I had a story brewing in my mind. I kept putting it off, busy as I was living and working as a teacher. But the story just wouldn’t go away. So one day, a few months after returning home, I sat down to write. I couldn’t believe how quickly the story unfolded. The characters and the plots were not my initial intention. They just grew and developed. I wrote this novel, Hands Full of Ashes over a seven month period in 2013. It is a romantic suspense/women’s fiction novel and is a love story layered with political intrigue, love, death, and hope and it all unfolds in the region of East Africa.
The initial writing, I would soon learn, was the easy part. The fact that I knew next to nothing about High Commissioners, or militia groups didn’t faze me in the least. I just wrote. And wrote some more. The easy part was imagining the love between the main character and her love interest and enjoying the development of their passion and love as it grew and deepened. The hard part was the next stage – the editing. After revising my manuscript and paring it down (significantly), I hired an editor and had the manuscript revised yet again. The process has thus far lasted just over a year, from the beginning of the writing to the completion of the editing. I am now in the publishing stage – with queries polished and sent and interest and requests (partials and fulls) from several agents and publishers. But one thing I have learned, interest does not automatically translate into commitment. It is a long road.
Being a writer is an evolutionary job. I thought I knew all there was to know about writing! I certainly didn’t. I began reading oodles of books about writing – books by famous authors, and by unknown authors. I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing”, which was a little like reading a biography while reading about writing. At least it was entertaining.
I learned to pare my writing down, even when it felt WRONG. I chucked out as many adverbs as I could stomach, and made sure that my character arc was consistent. I carefully determined my genre (women’s fiction/romantic suspense) and lingered over the word count (73,000 words) making sure it wasn’t too long. I learned more about grammar than I wanted to. Then one evening not so long ago, I sat down and read my story once again. It was better than I could have hoped. Powerful, sad, shocking, inspiring. I wanted to write a moving story that was fictional yet also realistic. I think I succeeded. Although the story is a work of fiction, and takes place in Canada, Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC, it was inspired by Rwanda nonetheless.