continued from part one yesterday
To sum up yesterday, quite a bit of the motivation for writing my first book was – therapy. after the first summer in Nepal I was trying to process the experience and I just couldn’t. so I began to write. the first prerequisite of writing at book length is – to have something to say.
To actually write the book was a learning process. I learned the second prerequisite of writing a book – you have to know how to write! I think there is the non-writer’s dismissal of the writer – of course I could do that if I wanted! all I need is the time! and I started off with that same lack of understanding. I learned a lot during that process. by the end of writing, I was done – the fire to write was quenched. I felt I had said what needed saying. I didn’t think I would do that again.
then again, after 2007, I didn’t think I would return to Nepal again either. but I did go back in 2008, partly to answer some questions I had – was it really like that? did things really work that way? was my 2007 experience there real, or some sort of dream? in 2008, the answer to these questions was yes. within 36 hours of arrival, I had picked up where I left off, I was doing the same activities I had been doing when I left in 2007, as if the intervening eight months was just a long weekend.
2008 was the summer I was meant to have in 2007. People were friendly; I knew what to expect; I had taken a burn course in Honolulu and was more prepared for the burn unit. probably if this had been somehow transposed into the first summer, I would have never written The Hospital at the End of the World.
And similarly with 2008, I returned in 2009. fast forward to 2012.
My trip in 2011 was different inasmuch as I felt I had more to offer than just helping out at the nursing school in Tansen. I think TNS is one of the top nursing schools in Nepal, I really do. But I wanted to work on critical care skills and to reach a wider audience, so that meant working out of Kathmandu, the biggest population center. I started this blog then. made new friends and shared my knowledge with 190 nurses. I travelled outside KTM valley to offer my course, and every day I talked with people about hospital care in Nepal. I didn’t know it then, but I was gathering material for my next book.
It took awhile to get motivated to write. That’s the first step – having the desire to embark on a long quest with no certain end in sight. In fall 2012, though, I was willing.
Why a novel? why fiction?
This time around, I made a series of decisions. The first was to write fiction as opposed to nonfiction. There has to be more to a book than simply a series of war stories. we need a story arc, with a plot and a climax, in order to keep the reader’s interest. this was the first. I knew that my level of background info about Nepal was inexhaustible – by this time I had spent five years studying it and living there. And I wanted to educate and inform the reader about issues of health care in low income countries. There are many examples of books where the setting of the book is important. The reader stays with the story because of the plot and characters, and can’t help but learn about the setting. so -it would be a “historical novel” – that’s the genre. Furthermore, from the very beginning I knew what the climax of the book would be.
Oh, and I decided not to have the “page 42 problem” in the second book. Finally I had a better idea of who the ideal reader would be.
I also knew a lot more about the writing process, the “craft” of producing something people wanted to read. And so – I started to write The Sacrament of the Goddess.
tomorrow -part three!