Sunday, November 20, 2016

Guest Post: Judy Penz Sheluk on "Writing The Book Inside Your Head"

Back in August, Judy gave us all some advice on “Becoming A Professional Writer.” She is back today on the topic of “Writing The Book Inside Your Head.”

Judy Penz Sheluk: Writing The Book Inside Your Head

This past summer, I was invited to speak at a local creative writing group. The invitation came with the hope that I’d give the members some insight into writing and getting published. I was happy to accept. My blog is largely devoted to the writing life, and I’ve been very honest about my own journey, from hope to heartbreak to happiness. Besides, there’s always the off chance that someone in the group will purchase a book from me.As is the case with most groups, there was one member (herein fictitiously named Grace) who overshadowed the rest with questions, comments and running dialogue. I like to categorize these people as “Well, enough about me. Here’s more about me.” Here’s how it went:

Grace: I’m writing a novel about my uncle during the Second World War. He escaped POW camp by being taken in by nuns and living in a convent.
Me: That sounds interesting. How far have you gotten with it?
[Other members shift in their seats and study their hands.]
Grace: I’ve written the first chapter.
Another member (let’s call him Bob): Grace has been writing and rewriting that first chapter for six months.
Grace (defensive): The first chapter has to be perfect, or no agent or publisher will read on.
Me: That’s true. But you need to have a finished novel before you can start querying agents and publishers.
Grace: But I have the entire book written in my head.
[More seat shifting. Clearly this group has heard it all before.]
Me (trying to be tactful): Here’s the thing, Grace. No one can read the book inside your head. You have to just write it.
That stopped Grace, but only for a moment. Her next worry was whether or not to use her uncle’s real name, or make one up.
Me: Is this a biography?
Grace: No, I’m using things that happened in his life, but he’s dead now, so I have to make most of it up.
Me: So it’s going to be a work of fiction?
Grace: Yes, but I’ll be including some real facts.
Bob: We’ve all told her to change his name. You always see that at the front of a novel. That the names and places are from the author’s imagination.
Me: I have to agree with Bob. It’s better to make up a name. You can always credit your uncle in the acknowledgements. Besides, real incidents and people influence authors all the time.
Grace: I don’t think I can write the book without using his real name. That’s the name I’ve been using all along.
Me: In the book that’s been written inside your head.
Grace nodded.
Thankfully our time was up.

Did Grace buy one of my books? Of course not. But two other members did, and one came to my local bookstore signing the following Saturday and bought a book there. You just never know…as for Grace, I’m pretty sure she’s still writing that book inside her head.

Do you have a writing group story you’d like to share?

Synopsis for Skeletons in the Attic
What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there…

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Judy Penz Sheluk ©2016

Amazon International bestselling author Judy Penz Sheluk’s crime fiction includes The Hanged Man’s Noose, Skeletons in the Attic, and several short stories. Find her at  and on Facebook:

Find Skeletons in the Attic in print at all the usual suspects, and on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited on Amazon:


Earl Staggs said...

I enjoyed this, Judy. I think we all know people who are still writing that first chapter, and no amount of reasoning will change their thinking. All you can do is take your best shot and move on. . .if they'll let you.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Judy,

My new novel The Inheritance is also a mystery in which a woman inherits a house and property with certain stipulations. I guess this is a popular theme.

I've also met people who have told me that they've been writing and rewriting the first few chapters of a book for many years because they want it to be perfect. My advice is the same as yours: write the book. You can always rewrite and edit once you have a first draft. Of course, that first draft is always the most difficult to write. I suggest doing a flexible, rough outline first and working from that.

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Hi Earl, Thanks for stopping by and so glad you enjoyed the post. And yes, we all know those people. I think I was one of those people, once, and sometimes I still am!

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks Jacqueline, for stoping by. I'm not sure if we've stumbled upon a popular theme or not. I suppose all stories have been told, and it's up to us as writers to retell them in a new way.

And yes, you can't edit a blank page!

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Thanks Kevin for hosting me again! Always a pleasure to visit your corner of the world.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Thank you, Judy!

Susan Oleksiw said...

Judy, I fear your story is far too common. I met a woman in a writers' group who had been working on the same novel for ten years. She was determined to make it as good as it could be. Then her husband said they were moving in three months, they moved, and she felt she had to start a new book. She did, and finished it. She hasn't published it yet but at least she's finishing something.

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Wow, Susan. 10 years. I cannot begin to imagine!

Joanne Guidoccio said...

Excellent post! I've met several writers who "write in their heads" and talk endlessly about that book's release. Some have even designed the cover! I enjoyed reading and highly recommend Skeletons in the Attic.