How My Children (and blogging) Saved My Writing

Welcome to Day 2 of Pauline's Stationary Blog Hop. Today's post is from Denise M. Swank, a busy mom and aspiring novelist.

P.S: I will resume regular programming next Monday. Until then, enjoy the specials on the menu. May I take your order?

I used to smart. I used to have ten gazillion brain cells. I used to do cross word puzzles, follow politics, KNOW THE ANSWERS ON JEOPARY. Yeah, I was a brainiac.

And then I had kids.

I used to think it was the actual giving birth that sucked the knowledge out of your head, but I have three biological and three adopted children. (yes, that’s six kids for those of you who struggle with simple math.) I continued to lose my mind exponentially with each addition.  I became a LOST addict, arguing theories and plausiblities because it stretched my mind. It made me think. For once, I had something to use my limited mental capacities on other than whether to buy Huggies or Pampers.

I also used to write. My life goal was to write a novel. I tried multiple times.  I had an issue with a thing called plot. Minor thing, right?  Eons ago, I started a historical romance. I lived in Joplin, Missouri so I researched the origins of the town (I found it quite fascinating) (Those of you familiar with Joplin, Missouri can stop snickering.) I was full of facts about the mining and city parks, a layout of the original town, etc. I had a  feisty dreamer for a heroine and a dashing rake for the hero (can anyone say cliché?) And I set them up, started writing (long hand, oh yeah Old School Rulz) and after awhile they stood around in the story asking me “WTF are we supposed to do now?”  Good question. I knew I needed conflict but I couldn’t figure it out. Everything I came up with sucked. I tried multiple attempts with other stories, some just in my own head some on paper, but always faced the same issue. Plot.

In 2007, I discovered blogging. My blog was a magic door to the world of writing. I had an immediate  audience, even if the audience happened to be about seven followers. But a funny thing happened when I blogged. I learned how to tell a story.

I wrote about my kids, naturally. My blog is titled There’s Always Room for One More because I had four children and was in the process of adopting my fifth. My children provided a plethora of fodder for posts but I couldn't just write “Jenna did the cutest thing.” I realized my post had to have a begging a middle and a end.

Duh, Sesame Street  already told me that.

(Apparently, I’m a slow learner. I blame my children and the massive brain cell massacre.)

The writing in my early posts needs some work, but I started grasping how to structure the stories -- how to set it up, tell what happened and wrap it up at the end.  I learned the art of self editing a post, how some thoughts or sentences slowed the story down and no matter how cute, needed to go (kill you're darlings.)  I learned there needed to not only be a story, but conflict and conflict resolution. 

About a year later, I found myself with over two hundred followers, people who loved to hear the stories about my kids. I loved writing my blog and entertaining readers with my wacky family but all that writing stirred my deep seated desire to write a novel.

So I did.

And guess what? I finished it.

Okay, so my first novel sucks. At least I know that, right? But I learned so much about writing with that first book that I don't consider it a waste of time. It was a stepping stone to getting better.  It also unlocked a flood gate of other stories of my own, none of which involved my kids.

I consider myself a full-time writer now. I’m currently writing my fifth manuscript since I started that first one fifteen months ago. Two have been edited and are currently under consideration by agents. (crossing fingers)(and toes) If I keep growing and writing, at some point I believe I will be published.

My blog is much neglected these days. Old readers occasionally email or Facebook me to say how much they miss it and honestly, sometimes I do too.  It was like a scrap book of memories, only I shared it with the world. But one thing I know, I will always be grateful for what it taught  me, the lasting memories of my kids and the connection I felt to people because of it. And just because she likes to get around, (*cough* internet whore *cough*) she has a website too:   Denise Grover Swank is an aspiring novelist who is currently at work on a young adult science fiction manuscript when not caring for the five children who still live at home. (Rumor has it the sixth ran off with the circus.) She occasionally, although very rarely, posts on her family blog There’s Always Room for One More  , but writes status updates about her kids’ exploits on Facebook (Denise Grover Swank) and stirs up frivolity and mayhem on Twitter. @DeniseMSwank  And just because she likes to get around, (*cough* internet whore *cough*) she has a website too:  http://www.denisegroverswank.com/