Guest Blog Post – Andi’s Book Reviews

Guest Blog Post – Andi’s Book Reviews

What does dog training have to do with becoming an author? Ellie Beals, author of Emergence, is going to tell us all about it in a special guest post today. You can also check out an excerpt from her book before you download your own copy. Be sure to also follow the rest of the tour to get to know her even better, adding your own comments and questions along the way. Best of luck in the giveaway!

My Journey to Becoming an Author: Thank you, Dog-Training

If you’ve read my novel Emergence, you’ll know that Cass Harwood, one of my protagonists, is a management consultant who is also a dog-trainer. As a successful mangement consultant, she is a chronic over-preparer, whose foundation of preparation allows her to put aside whatever script she’s created in order to successfully improvise. The same thing is true of her as an obedience competitor. This creative friction between the two poles of performance readiness (no preparation vs. obsessive planning) is an undercurrent throughout Emergence.

Cass is based pretty closely on me. Her preparation vs. improvisation profile is mine. It is what was responsible for me waiting until I was close to 70, to write a novel – even though it had been an objective of mine since I was a kid. Every time I thought about attending to this, I assumed the process would have to start by creating a detailed outline. My anticipation that this process would be lengthy, difficult and tedious was always what stopped me from getting started.

Meanwhile, as an Obedience trainer, competitor, and coach, I was getting ever-bolder in my improvisation. Over time, my propensity to NOT decide what remedy I would attempt until I actually had my hands (or leash) on the dog in question, became more pronounced. Here’s how it works now: I do a little preliminary “noodling” with the dog to get a feel for her, and then like magic and without conscious thought – I know what to do. I find this an incredibly gratifying demonstration of NOT allowing my hyper-active inner voice to prevail over older, wiser instincts too-often pushed into latency. In fact, it has always reminded me of my days as a poet, when I would sit down, pen and paper in hand…..and simply Wait. And eventually, something would come and I would follow it. I wrote poetry throughout my childhood and into my young womanhood. And now that I think about it – the fact that poetry ended when consulting started, is probably not coincidental.

Which takes us to the summer of 2020, as I approached my 70th birthday during a time of plague, and thought: If not now, when? I went through my compendium of potential plot-lines, characters, and dramatic events collected over decades, tagged a few that I thought I could merge into a coherent whole, and then – sat down to write. No outline. Just. Sat. Down. To. Write. The first chapter, in Xavier’s voice, emerged within an hour. It has never changed since it was first written.

My process after that was not devoid of planning. But the planning was done in a way that would not circumvent the creative process. Its iterative nature was based on understanding that for me, the process of creating through writing, while writing, is essential. For me, that creative process can be harnessed but not directed, and it was that not-yet-conscious wisdom that was at the heart of my reluctance to develop a detailed outline at the outset.

So for those interested in writerly technique – this was my process: I would write a chapter. I would then do a rough outline of the next chapter. As time went on, the rough outline expanded to looking well forward, and to eventually encompassing all of the plot. But in my mind, plot development as outlined was always provisional – dependent on whatever “happened” in the chapter I was writing each day. Each day’s work including revising the outline as required, based on what had occurred the preceding day. Throughout the three month period in which Emergence was written, the writing remained the driver, and the outline its servant, rather than the obverse.

Fun is very important to me – I want it and need it. Writing Emergence was so much fun! I suspect that if I had not unconsciously re-asserted my relationship to creativity and spontaneity through dog-training, it would never have happened.

Read the full review on Andi’s blog, Andi’s Book Reviews.

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