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Apr
14
2019

My journey into fairytale land and tips I've learned along the way -- by Karina Novak Monsonego

Ever since i can recall myself my mind had always existed in two worlds. The real one and that of my vivid dreams and imagination.

I can still remember most of them really well. I remember the magical glowing door under my bed that took me to my own personal wonderland , filled with gnomes and fairies and wondrous mystery.

I could see it all around me.

The monkey bars at the playground where i played were the castle i had to scale to free a princess trapped within the dark dungeon.

Outside of my dreams my childhood was pretty unremarkable.

Like the parents of many other kids so did mine went their separate ways, and me and my mom (and most of her family) ,moved from ukraine in a search of a better life.

(At one point we lived seven people in a four bedroom apartment but that's another story.)

My first real writing experience came when I was eleven.  For four nights straight I dreamt scenes from a story. I decided i had to put it down on paper.

Once I started writing the dreams ended but I already knew how the story went.

The layout was clear as day in my mind.

A little over a year later I finished and began the tedious work of finding myself a publisher. What I quickly came to realise is that in the country I now resided in ,art was really low on the food chain.

There are literally no agents (pun intended) and almost all of the publications are vanity publications or directly owned by the authors and they will not invest in a young inexperienced author without connections.

Something I never had in the business.

What I will say though is that today I am happy my mother was there to stop me from selling the rights to my book and getting myself into a heap of debt, especially now when I look back and realise just how inexperienced and childish my writing was.

What I failed to realise was that my readers did not know my characters as well as I do.

The best way to get all of that information is to get someone you trust to read your draft and ask you questions, lots of questions. The more you are asked, the more things will fall into place, the more YOU will learn about your characters.

As the world began to open up to me technologically (got my first computer at fourteen) I began learning about how the business of book publishing worked overseas and how important it is to get a real literary agent to set your book sailing across the world.

Once you get the right one he or she will be your champion. They will fight for your story to be read and heard.

A turning point in the way I treated my characters came by pure chance.

My school offered a short elective class of creative writing and I went. There were many exercises but the one that stuck was called :The Robot.

The objective was simple enough: send you robot to get you a drink.

And that is what we did and we were all wrong because then our robot had to deal with the real world.

Meaning: we had to plan a road for him. When he came to the door, is it open? Can he get it by himself or does he need his human? When he goes to the kitchen, how tall is he? Does he needs to duck to go through? Did he close the fridge door after he used it?

And so on.

We had to measure and calculate every detail and with each question answered we knew who our robot is a little bit better.

I still use “the robot” today.

 

I did spend a few years without writing. Puberty…

I did still read A LOT.

I was used to reading on top of rooftops and trees instead of attending some classes… (Don't follow my bad example ;p). I did study in my own way. I wrote down the words i didn't know in the books i read to look them up later in the dictionary.(The paper one, no, I am not that old.)

Speaking of old, my mom once had to come to school and sign that she allows me to read above my level.

So you set your own level, don't let anyone constrict you!

At one point I was thinking i missed my chance to realise my dream as the years passed me by.

In one of my lowest points, when I literally stood in the middle of the street and tried to figure out what to do with my life, an old friend came strolling towards me.

He saw me and without saying a word just came over and hugged me.

We stood there for a while until he told me he was moving to another city and I should come visit. I did and I never left.

Our friendship rekindled years of yearning for each other. A year later he proposed on top of the red mountain. Another year and we were married and expecting. Our beautiful son is 2 years old now.

I started med school where I am now, life took on a somewhat steady pace.

And then something horrible and wonderful happened: while on a check up for after birth complications the doctors discovered a tumor on my kidney.

Cancer.

It was terrible because of all of the reasons that I don't have to list here and it was wonderful because they found it really really early.

I am after it now. I am completely clean.

The experience made me realize something important. I was so eager to go fast, I was rushing to catch life before it passed me by and now I know I have to slow down and enjoy it.

I had words and scenes in my head again. I needed to let the stories flow out. A self administered therapy.

I began writing again.

 

This brings me to my next advice. You should definitely write what you know.

I always felt that my relationship was somewhat of a fairytale and now I wanted to tell our story in a fantastic way.

I began by writing about our fantastic courtship. In my story we may not be mortals and the place looks nothing like our home but the core of our relationship drives my tale.

The layout was done really fast.

I implore you, write down how you want your story to progress. Always figure out how you want it to end. Now all you will have to do is to get there.

And it can change and you can add and subtract from it as you like but at least you will have a road, a map to your destination.

And give your character a reason. Even one he is not aware off at the beginning himself.

It is important for you to decide what language you want your story to be in.

And it most definitely do not need to be your mother tongue. Someone once asked me : “ What language do you think in ?” and for me it was English even though I have three complete languages in my head. English is the richest of the three that I own. I feel it is best suited for me to express myself.

Most days my brain works faster than my hand. If i walk down the street and suddenly hear or see a scene i must write it down. Once it was so powerful, I stopped in the middle of the road to type it up and promptly forgot my backpack by my son's kindergarten.(I was lucky one of the girls found it).

Now i almost don't use pen and paper except when i have a long scene in my head and it's the middle of class or i want to figure something out like parallel lives, it's just easier to use a piece of paper. Mostly I do it with google drive and my phone. My husband introduce me to it. I am lucky to get his full support in my writing.

As a former krav maga trainer I used his knowledge in writing some of my fight scenes.

That's another thing. If you know someone who is an expert in their field don't hesitate to ask them about it, I guarantee they will be happy to help.

 

And speaking off: Research Reserch Reserch. And then repeat. The more actual facts you put in your story the better it will be.

And i am not talking about geographical locations or even getting something mathematical or physical right, those things too of course, I myself am writing right now about Iceland and i am trying to learn about it so it will help me improve.

I also refer to the many stories and mythologies that came before us.

Use them.At the very least they can put new ideas in your head.

I also use other media to get me going in writing since I tend to procrastinate and get easily distracted by shiny things. Certain music can get me in the right mood. I could have a melody that will play out a scene or a trailer of my whole story in my head. I can be my own personal youtube.😜

If you hear something interesting in a tv show or even on the street, write it down- you think you will remember it later but trust me, you won't.

I found this website right when I was ready to receive constructive criticism and feedback and you need to tread lightly when you are ready yourself. Remember not all the advice you will get is good or bad, it is an opinion of who will one day might be your audience. Take what you feel will make you a better writer and don't be offended by those who are just not into what you wrote. Each person has his or her own taste and it will not always go toe to toe with yours.

The best person to read your first draft I think should be someone who believes in you but also will be honest enough to point out your mistakes to you.

I was lucky to have found this person in my husband, my best friend and companion. I know now it is truly Never too late to go chase your dream while still living your life.

Don't let frustration get you down. Sometimes you will fail, my most recent example is this blog post. I already almost finished writing it and it got deleted. All of it.

So I growled and moaned and then I rewrote it according to my layout.

Hopefully better then it was before.

Posted by Karina Novak Monsonego 14 Apr at 01:36
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Responses to this blog

Rellrod 14 Apr at 10:18  
Karina — lovely.

Glad you've returned to writing!

Rick
Fromau 19 Apr at 23:26  

Smmoore79 23 Apr at 05:21  
Well written and a big help for new writers!

Stephen
Prc 1 May at 02:16  
Hello Karina, Quire a long story about you. You make a couple of interesting points. I am a generation (plus a bit) ahead of you and I was fortunate in that my parents stayed together 'until death do us part'. Indeed, all my generation have stayed together, both family and friends.
The other interesting point you make is about the dreams. When you wrote them down, they ceased. Back in the 60's I had a friend. We were never in a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship, just friends. Late in the 70's, she took her own life. By then we had drifted apart and she had married, but still kept in contact occasionally. When I learnt of her death, I had repetitive dreams about her, from 1978 they began and lasted for 40 years. Last year, 40 years after she died, I entered a writing competition and my story was based on our friendship. Purely fictitious but the theme followed our friendship. The competition was held by a US publisher and I was fortunate in that my story was placed second in the competition. It is being published at the moment. What is interesting is, from the day I finished writing the story, the dreams stopped. In some ways, I miss the dreams somehow but it seems to me, by writing the story down, it satisfied a restless spirit. Indeed, she appears in the story as a spirit. ... Peter

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