Tag Archives: writing a novel

Writing a Goat Novel

One of the most commonly asked questions of an author is where they get their ideas. Even for a goat novel there is no easy answer except life.

The germ of my novels is a character I find interesting. This may be someone I see out somewhere or someone I knew sometime. As this character becomes more real, the questions change to what would happen if? What would this character do?

Dora the Alpine/Nubian goat from Dora's Story
Martha Cunningham is known for her horse paintings. I knew her when we both taught at Bunker High School. My original illustrator withdrew and I asked Martha for her help. She worked hard to get comfortable drawing Dora and the various situations found in the novel.

“Dora’s Story” began with Dora and a question of whether it was possible to write a gpat novel about the life of a goat in the spirit of “Black Beauty” and a horse. I have known a lot of goats, met quite a few goat owners and heard about other livestock owners.

A list of possible things that could happen to a goat started forming. Each thing brought in the type of owner who could trigger the event. The list got quite long.

Emily from the goat novel Dora's Story
In Part 2 of Dora’s Story Emily gets and names Dora to participate in a 4-H livestock project. She and Dora become fast friends. When her mother sells Dora, Emily is devastated and tries to find her.

The novel might have remained only a list until Emily appeared. Then the story had a focus: Emily and Dora were best friends, parted for some reason leading to a search and a final reunion. This goat novel would be easy to write.

I was so wrong.

Confidently I started writing. The first part was so easy. The second part started getting sticky. The fourth part fell into shambles. Perhaps this goat novel was never meant to be written.

Leonard from the goat novel Dora's Story
Leonard rescues Dora and they become fast friends in Part 4 of Dora’s Story. Leonard has had to give up his cattle and retirement is not where he wants to be. Dora and the other two goats provide Leonard with livestock and something interesting to do each day.

Except I knew the ending.

My list of story points became a time line. My goat shows became pages of classes, goats entered, goat owners, awards. The shambles got rewritten.

Shawn from the goat novel Dora's Story
Shawn, from Part 6 of Dora’s Story, is the baby of the family. Dora becomes his goat. The two set off to conquer the goat shows.

My goat novel “Dora’s Story” was written and went into rewrites and more rewrites. The timeline was off. More rewrites. More corrections.

My goat novel was like a movie in my head. I saw the goats, the people and wanted to have an illustration for each part as well as having a cover with Dora on it. Thanks to Martha Cunningham those illustrations became reality.

And “Dora’s Story” was written.

Read some pages from “Dora’s Story“.

Finishing My New Novel

Winter has moved in again. Snow flakes drift down in tiny flurries then stop. Cold wind roars down the valley.

The goats and chickens are staying in their respective homes today. They are not happy after enjoying several days of spring weather.

I am staying inside too. It is time to finish my novel Capri Capers.

As a reader, I pick up a book, open the cover and read it. There is little effort involved on my part.

front cover for the novel Capri Capers

Harriet’s goat kid Capri loves sleeping in chairs and does so whenever she is given the chance. She wishes she was a house goat and could do so more often.

As an author, there is a lot of effort. Capri Capers started in November, 2013. I had been working very hard all year and wanted a break.

November is the perfect break for me. I sign up for National Novel Writing Month. I come up with an idea. I write 50,000 words over the month and have a story draft.

A story draft is not a book. It is an idea for a book.

The Capri Capers draft underwent a major rewrite. This gave me a novel draft.

Research began on all the little items I guessed at as I wrote the draft. How do homing devices work? How do police officers radio each other? How do you buy a lottery ticket?

The novel draft got another rewrite to fix all these problems. It still didn’t sound like a novel. What was wrong?

Melodramas are fun plays. All the characters are larger than life. There is the hero, bold and brave. There is the heroine needing help. There is the evil villain who must be foiled.

Novels are supposed to be inhabited by people, not stock characters. Who was Harriet? How did she feel throughout the novel? What about Arthur?

Villains are different too. They must have motive. Capri Capers has Leroy and Roscoe working together and Dan who didn’t really start as a villain but became one.

Another rewrite and the stock characters started feeling more like people I might know.

The state forest roads presented another problem. I thought I had a good grip on those roads and could describe the action on them quite well. At least I thought so until I got hopelessly lost in the forest. I needed a map.

How do you make a map? I consulted the Missouri Forestry Service. And I drew a map.

state forest map for the novel

So many bits of action in the novel take place somewhere in the state forest behind Harriet’s property. People travel up and down the roads but where are they going? How do they get from one place to another? Only a map can help sort it all out.

That meant another major rewrite. Right turns became left turns. Distances, ravines, road curves all got rewritten to fit the map.

Have you ever read a book filled with grammatical and spelling errors? It’s most annoying.

My novel Capri Capers has been read and reread a dozen times now. I hope all the errors are fixed. I hope the spelling and grammar are now correct.

The typos get harder to spot as I become more familiar with the text. I see what I expect to see, not what is there.

But there finally comes a time when I have to stop. The book will never be perfect. Every reading I will think of a word to change here or there.

March 17 approaches. It is time to get the draft ready to become the book. That is what I will do on this cold winter day.