What I learned from writing a novel

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Opp Hotel in Rock Port, MO (circa 1940)

Around March 22, my new novel, entitled The hotel.

I always wanted to do this and I finally did it! I heard an author promote his masterclass by encouraging writers to write 1000 words per day. I asked William Paul Young how to do it, and he said something like, “Just go into the river and let it take you downstream.” The first few days were a bit tougher, but after 45 days last winter I found myself with 72,000 words and a story that I loved.

The novel is about a middle-aged man who begins to research when he is intrigued by an old hotel in his hometown. He finds mystery and intrigue, but above all reluctance and dead ends. The hotel has its secrets and rumor has it that it is haunted. Plus, he hears stories about Prohibition and the tunnels under the street, and he can’t help but dig deeper. The story goes back 100 years earlier, when the hotel was the best place within 160 km to rent a room. The Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression are the backdrop for much of the adventure.

A lot of the main characters discover that the secrets that we really hide are the ones that are inside of us. “Sleeping dogs” may have been the problem from the start. Many of the main characters are aided by enlightening and facing their darkness.

Writing this novel has been helpful in so many ways. Here are a few to consider.

The value of getting started

The hardest part of anything is the first few steps, whether it’s getting in shape, changing our diet, or writing a book. After I wrote the first two chapters, the rest of the story came quickly (sometimes, almost too fast). People say I am prolific. I think that’s a nice way to say “You write a lot of stuff”. It’s true, if I wasn’t myself, I would be remiss for writing so much. The reason is quite simple.

By nature, I procrastinate. The terrace that I built behind my house has been in progress for several years. There is only one guardrail on the stairs because the insurance company made me put it in place and I didn’t go around the other. But, the way I get over procrastinating is to organize things in order of importance, then do the important things now! I know if I don’t write when it’s fresh in my head, then I’ll probably put it off. Some things need to marinate and take time to develop, but some things just need to come out – that’s how most of my writing goes.

The human potential for healing

In my personal life, I have discovered a healing modality called to concentrate. The history of the hotel helped me flesh it out with various characters from the 1920s, 30s and today. When we are present with those parts of us that are blocked due to trauma, we gain a real possibility of healing. By keeping these pieces buried, we not only guarantee that they won’t improve, but that they will cause us problems later in the game.

In the book, people from both eras used the phrase “Let sleeping dogs lie”. It may seem counterintuitive to dig into things that are buried or things that have happened in the past, but it is often the only way to bring peace to the world today. All metaphors break down eventually, but when we are present with the parts of us that are blocked, we get a real possibility of healing. The real treasure and the great mystery are not found in an old building, they are in fact inside each of us. It’s ultimately not so much about what you find when you dig for treasure, but what you find out about yourself.

The value of adventure

As I explained in my book, The Tea Shop, the adventures are not scripted and require us to be open to what we never imagined. I found this while writing this novel and in the story of the novel itself. The mystery wasn’t quite what Joe thought it would be and he found things he hadn’t dreamed of in places he didn’t usually go. Itineraries can be helpful, but just as they ruined some of my family vacations, they can prevent us from discovering the hidden treasure of adventure.

Most of us imagine we know where we want to go and how we want to get there. It is a useful trait for navigating in life and especially for achieving goals. But at least occasionally, you have to allow yourself to leave the marked path and rediscover the beauty of the wild landscapes. The chaos and unpredictability of adventure is actually what makes it so exciting and valuable. What appear to be accidents and adversity, can often be the fork in the road of excitement, mystery, and new beginnings.

The novel is loosely based on a hotel in my hometown. The characters are all fictional, but are probably from people I know personally. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Available around March 22!

Be where you are, be who you are

Karl forehand

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