Friday, April 27, 2012


At age 19, I told my English professor that I was writing a novel.
I'd written the first chapter. How interesting! How wonderful!
She wanted to know if the novel was about me. I told her that
the main character was like me--a college student, at the time--and
that her name was Yasmine. But she was NOT me. I was adamant:
I wanted to write outside myself.

"Most first novels," she said, "are autobiographical."

I never finished that novel. I estimate that I began 3 or 4 more novels. 

I wrote lots of notes. None got beyond the third chapter.

All the while, I wrote dozens of short stories. Some of these stories 

formed an inter-connected series, based on my grandfather's tales.

Over the years, I wrote in my journal, describing the novels I wanted 

to write. A few months before I began to write my first novel, I wrote
the following words--which are, I think, the essence of my novel's 


"I could have the old man tell a tale when he speaks of love.
Bk II is a combination tale, history (impersonal and personal).
He reminisces on his youth, . . . on his beloved's death.
On Love. On the world. Through time. . . ."

Then, the next spring, I sat down and wrote a one-page outline
for my novel. I wrote each chapter fairly swiftly. After about
6 months, I began to revise. The first version was written in
longhand. The second, on a typewriter. Then, a couple more versions
on my computer.

As I wrote and re-wrote, I wept. No one had told me how emotional
I might get while writing a first novel. So I set the book aside.
After a few months, I returned to the manuscript with the
idea of incorporating some of the stories into the novel. 
And voila! I had written my first novel.

So, if you're a writer contemplating the writing of your
first novel, here are a few suggestions:

--Be prepared to cry. When you do, take a break from writing--
either a couple of days or a couple of weeks. You decide. You
might try skipping the section that makes you cry. You can get
back to it once the first draft is completed. Just know that
your own reaction to the writing is a sign you're onto something
authentic and life-altering.

--Ask a friend to be your novel-buddy if you anticipate a strong
emotional reaction to your work. As you write--if you begin to
experience the emotional reaction--call that friend. Go out to
dinner with family. Do something that's fun for a change.
Why not take up a hobby that is not writing-related?  Like knitting 

or learning Spanish.

Find lots of links for hobbies at

--Create a novel journal. In this journal, write down ideas about
the novel and its characters. Your vision of what you want the
book to be. Be very specific. You could create a virtual journal on
your computer disk/hard drive. Or you might try blogging.
(A blog is an on-line journal.)

There are web sites that give free blog space, such as and

--If you're not a member of a writers' organization/group/workshop/website, 

join one. The sense of camaraderie is so helpful. It's very isolating to write
a novel alone, as I did--with no writers' group or class for support. 

I've since joined a writers' organization, which provides a feeling of help and support as 
we attain our dream.

Find writers' organizations at  (the premier website/

magazine for budding novelists)  and at

--Of course, read writers' magazines/e-zines for technical tips on
writing. But you should also choose a favorite author to read
and re-read exclusively as you write your novel. Realize that
the author's writing will influence yours--so he/she should be great.

Some writers choose not to read other writers while writing a book.
Some novelists--like Barbara Kingsolver--read a favorite author.
Think of this book or author as a literary comforter; mine is Wuthering Heights

by Emily Bronte.

Find your favorite author's work at

--On revising: Ideally, revising ends when you begin your next book.
In the meantime, have someone else read your manuscript. In my case, 

no one but editors read the entire manuscript.  Several of my family members 
and a writer-friend read chapters/chapter.

But if you're not ready for your cousin to read your novel, work on an article,
begin another book or just take a break and re-discover the world.

---Yolanda A. Reid

For more info on my first novel--Porridge & Cucu: My Childhood--

Copyright © 2012  by Y.A. Reid

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I just finished reading "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin.  It's an illuminating book.
The author assigned herself tasks for a year--each month devoted to some area/aspect of her life.
February, for her marriage.  March was for work--she began happiness project
blog.  April for her young children (to improve her connection with them).  June is devoted to
improving her existing friendships and making new ones.  By November, her tasks were to "Laugh outloud.  Use good manners.  Give positive reviews.  Find an area of refuge."
She addresses her inner life by changing her attitude ("Attitude," chapter eleven) and being more "present" ("Mindfulness," chapter ten).

In essence, she gave her life a makeover without leaving her city.
I'm astounded by the number of books she read on happiness--given her time constraints.
I liked how she processed the issues in her life.  She incorporated expressing gratitude; but
instead of a notebook, she used her computer to write one sentence at a time.  She tried laughter
yoga, kept a food diary, wrote emails to her husband, cleaned her friends' closets and her own, wrote a novel.

Early on, a  friend recommended therapy. Ms.  Rubin didn't feel she needed therapy, since she wasn't really UNhappy.  Instead, she analyzes herself and sets out to change  the aspects of her life she felt needed changing.

 At certain points in the book, it feels a little stilted:   She writes, " 'Fake it till you feel it' was an effective way to change my mood in the moment, as I followed my Third Commandment to 'Act the way you want to feel'. . .  By 'faking it' I could become engaged in subjects and activities that didn't particularly interest me . . . ." 

So, often she squelches the urge to berate her husband for not doing
something he said he'd do.  She focuses on changing herself, her behavior, her attitude.
But once she "was angry that he hadn't made a phone call that he'd promised to make"--and didn't hold back.  His response?  He sends her a charming e-mail with a cartoon character kissing a second cartoon character, as two hearts hover above them.  The message was, "Don't be mad."

Overall, the book is really engaging and almost anyone will find common ground with
the author.  Most of us--if not all of us--are seeking happiness.  I really like the book's subtitle
"Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun." And I may start a happiness project of my own.

--Yolanda A.  Reid

Check out Gretchen Rubin's websites