“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
Ever since I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Over the years, my dreams and goals as far as careers have changed, but the one thing that has remained constant is my desire to share stories…
That being said, I’ve always loved this quote by Ray Bradbury, but I never really understood it until I actually made it a priority to write every day–and subsequently finished my very first novel.
So… About this novel (and why I’m so excited about it and why it has my whole heart)… I got the idea for Breakfast with the Bookerlys a while back when I was sitting outside the courthouse where I work eating lunch and one of our bailiff’s walked by whistling and being his ever-so-good-natured self. I decided right then and there that he would make a fantastic character in a story somewhere, but I didn’t have a story to put him in at the time. After thinking about it for a while, I did like any good writer would do and just decided to start a new story (despite already having WAY too may works in progress already).
As it turned out, my cheerful bailiff character, “Officer Plum,” wound up being the jolly fellow who would escort my main character, ten-year-old orphan Rosie St. James, to her new home and family… And thus, the “Bookerlys” were born.
In the beginning, I thought they were just going to be a “fun story” to “play at” while I mulled and carried on over my more serious work in progress, a novel about a woman living with chronic illness who ends up on a soul-scrubbing journey by the sea. (#drama) The title of this WIP was “Blessings” and it was supposed to be a therapeutic piece for me… a place to explore all the feelings I have about life and death and how to keep living when you feel like dying. It was supposed to be my best story yet. But, somehow, it just wasn’t. And while I loved the setting, the characters, and the subject matter, I just couldn’t seem to get it to come together. So I decided to take a break and play at a fun story for a bit while I worked out the plot for “Blessings.”
Now, for me, the difference between “fun stories” and “serious” ones are as follows:
- “Serious” stories require extensive plotting, while “fun” ones are all about writing by the seat of one’s pants.
- “Serious” stories involve deep, well-created characters, while “fun” stories can afford an archetype here and there as well as the “experimental” character…
- “Serious” stories are well… serious, while “fun” stories are just plain fun. Hear something funny at work one day? Work it into the fun story. Think of a witty quip that doesn’t fit anywhere else? Make it fit into the fun story, somehow.
- “Serious” stories are written with publication in mind, while “fun” stories are regarded solely as writing practice.
- “Serious” stories have rules. “Fun” stories do not.
Basically, everything involved in the this new story was pretty much random. Even the title, “Breakfast with the Bookerlys” was totally random and had very little meaning in the context of anything. It really just sounded kind of charming to me and then there’s the alliteration factor, so why not just go with it?
What I didn’t know when I started that little tale was that “Breakfast with the Bookerlys” would change my life. And it would ultimately be the blessing that “Blessings” was not… Armed with a delightfully funny cast in an eccentric, but exciting setting, I began to write more faithfully than I had in months. Without the pressure of having to perform, I was able to just write whatever I wanted, however I wanted. No soul-searching or soul-scrubbing. No delving into the deeper questions that plague human existence. It was kind of like having a little dollhouse where I could go to play and laugh and wander and wonder. And, soon, writing started to actually be fun again…
No longer was I dreading opening a the dreaded document and no longer was the blank page so darn scary, and before long, my “fun story” had become my only story and “Blessings” had all but been forgotten.
Enter the Go Teen Writers 100-for-100 Challenge.
Once I realized that Breakfast with the Bookerlys had become A THING, I decided on a whim to dive in all the way and participate in a “100-for-100” writing challege. The premise of the challenge was very simple: Make it a priority to write at least 100 words every day for 100 days in a row, with one “grace day” allowed per week and the end result being an extra 10,000 words on your current work in progress.
Now, let the record show that I have hardly ever made it to 10,000 words on anything. And as shameful as it is to admit it, I have an awful tendency to not finish what I start, especially when it comes to writing. It’s a nasty habit and I’d recently come to the sad conclusion that you don’t get to call yourself a writer if you never actually finish writing anything… which is fair enough, I think.
So here I was, knee-deep in this fun little story with all my adorable little characters, getting ready to ACTUALLY COMMIT TO SOMETHING FOR 100 DAYS. *cue panic attacks*
And, as if that wasn’t enough, I was so determined to finish that I gave myself an ultimatum (and told my Mama and best friend about it to hold my feet to the fire): I was not allowed to write another word of fiction until I finished this story.
And, you know what? I was oddly okay with that. I love creative nonfiction as much as anything else, so if this was to be the end of my fiction career, I decided that it would just have to be a sad day…
And so I started writing every. single. day. The first few days were squeakers. 106 words Thursday… 137 words Friday… 102 Saturday… Grace day… 142 words Monday… but hey. 100 words a day was all the challenge required and I was determined to do just that. and then something pretty darn amazing happened about halfway through week two. My daily word count started to creep upward slowly, but surely, and by the next week I was hitting the 1,000-word-mark almost every day! And by the next week, I was averaging around 1,500 words a day. It was a small miracle.
I found that the Bookerlys had become my safe place amidst the stresses of life. When I was sad or angry (two emotions that have a tendency to creep up on you pretty often when you live with chronic illness) I’d “go spend time with the Bookerlys” (as I would tell my friend) to cheer myself up. Never before had I loved a set a of characters so much and never before had I found such JOY in sitting down to write every day. It was wonderful and beautiful and a blessing from the LORD… I really mean that. I think God gave me these characters to help heal my tired heart after one of the hardest years of my life…
Then, by week five, I did something I’d been waiting to do my whole life. I typed “THE END” on the last page of my very first novel… and it was very bit as glorious as I’d always imagined it would be.
Readers, I had fallen in love… and I have a feeling that I’ll still be in love with these characters for the “next 20,000 days.” They are everything I have ever hoped for. They are my friends and my family… mixed and matched, characterized and immortalized. They are every funny moment and every wild idea. They are, as dear Rosie would say, “all the lovely things.”
Quite simply, Breakfast with the Bookerlys is a book about life. Not life “in spite of” this or that, but rather life “because of…”
Words cannot express how excited I am to share this with you. And as I prepare to edit this story and pursue publication, I pray that you all will rejoice with me. My greatest hope is that this story will one day bring others just as much happiness as it has brought me.
“May you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out out of that love, remake a world.”
~ Love, Ash ~