“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. […] Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance.”
― J.K. Rowling

How to Write Like Nicholas Sparks: 4 Tips

This post is by our new regular contributor, Monica M. Clark. Monica is a lawyer finishing her first novel. She was an editor at the Harvard Crimson, and has been published by The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Reuters, and Dow Jones Newswires. You can follow Monica on her blog. Welcome to The Write Practice, Monica!

Last week I attended a conversation with Nicholas Sparks and a local D.C. reporter at the historic Sixth and I. There was a lot of movie talk and name dropping (think, “oh that Ryan and Rachel”), but Sparks was an excellent story teller and engaging speaker.  I learned a lot.

I might have said the writing tips Sparks shared were the highlight of the experience, but then a girl announced that she had “The Notebook” tattooed on her wrist.

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Photo by Rachel Lyra Hospodar

Anyhoo, you want to write like Nicholas Sparks?  Below are four tips on how to do it.

1. Write 2,000 Words A Day

When it’s time to knock out his next novel, Sparks says he writes 2,000 words a day, which I believe he says takes him about five hours.  His declaration involved some math (2,000 divided by the number of words he types per minute plus the square root of pi—something like that) to demonstrate that most of this time is not actually spent “typing.”  Rather, it involves a lot of e-mail checking, grabbing food and, of course, thinking.

I received two takeaways from this statement—1) I must write every day and 2) even the most successful writers sometimes fall victim to distractions and procrastination.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Write Out of Order

When I say “write out of order,”  I mean really out of order.  Sparks’ latest novel, The Longest Ride follows two couples (four POVs) whose fates at some point intertwine.  Because it would be difficult to write two male voices simultaneously, he wrote nearly the entire story of one couple first, then wrote the second couple’s story, then put the two together into a narrative that made sense.  This was crazy to me.  It never would have even occurred to me to take an approach like this!

That said, I’m also having issues ensuring my POVs have distinct voices—I think he’s on the something.

3. Write About Your Family

The Notebook was based on Sparks’ wife’s grandparents.  Remember A Walk to Remember? His sister.  Another novel is about his son, and yet another his brother (wait—does he have a brother?)—you get the point.

Sparks was inspired to write The Notebook after hearing his wife’s grandparents’ love story shortly after his own wedding.  Her grandfather told the story because it seemed to help with his wife with her Alzheimer’s.  Aww!

Want to be like Sparks?  Start interviewing the ‘rents!

4. Keep Your Future Movie in Mind

This brings me back to my last post on how to write a novel that will become a movie.  It’s fair to say that Nicholas Sparks has been very successful at that.  I believe eight of his novels have become movies already, and two are lined up in the future along with one TV show.  He really has the best career ever—at any one moment he’s writing a novel, promoting a novel, producing a movie, and promoting a movie.

Given how closely tied his books have become with film, Sparks says that he seriously considers how the plot will play out on screen before writing.  He recognizes that certain things that work in books (like introspection) simply don’t in film and vice versa.  However, once he starts writing all thoughts of the future movie are gone.  As soon as that first word hits the screen, he is nothing more than a  novelist.

What’s your favorite Nicholas Sparks novel?

PRACTICE

Think of a couple who has been married twenty years or more and find out how they fell in love—take fifteen minutes and write about it.  If that’s too hard, take fifteen minutes to write a story inspired by a member of your family.

Post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to give feedback on a few posts by other writers.

About Monica M. Clark

Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

  • Katie Cross

    To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this post. I like some of Spark’s stuff but haven’t read him much. However, these tips were very validating! My goal is about 2,000 words a day, and it’s always interrupted by other things. It’s nice to know that it happens to the best of them!

    • I know, right? It’s nice to remember that even those who have “made it” still suffered from some of the same struggles as the rest of us.

    • eva rose

      2,000 words a day is a fine goal, but I believe if you start with 15 minutes and discipline yourself to write every day, you form a good habit and a pattern for your brain to continue writing. Good luck!

  • Elise White

    I enjoyed this post! I’ll try to write 2,000 words a day!

    Heathcliff was the same age as Angie, give or take a couple of months.

    Angie always thought that it was fate that led Heathcliff’s mom to dump him off at his grandma’s that summer. She remembered how Mommy gossiped with her friends about “that little light-skinned boy at Mrs. Clark’s” and his “no good Momma”. The neighborhood was almost giddy with gossip about why Mrs. Clark’s daughter Ella would take up with a man from Florida, disappear with the man and her daughter, but leave her son behind.

    “I heard he got picked up for shoplifting last summer,” Angie’s older sister Belinda said.

    “Who told you that?” Angie asked.

    “Everyone knows.” said Belinda, hands on her hips, “that’s why his momma left him here. He’s trouble.”

    Trouble sounded exciting to Angie. She wouldn’t dare do anything to get herself into trouble. Mommy would plaster her into the wall if she did. This Heathcliff kid peaked her interest. She decided she was going to really see if he was trouble or not.

    • Wow, is that about one of your family members?? Also, Sparks writes 2,000 words a day, but I think it’s really about having a daily writing goal–if you also have a day job, 2,000 may be a lot, in my opinion.

      • Elise White

        Yes, it’s based on my mom’s story about her first love. And true, maybe 750 words a day is more reachable goal.

    • Karl Tobar

      I like how despite all the negative publicity Heathcliff has, she still wanted to find out for herself.

    • Christine

      The unverified rumors add spice and suspense to this account.

  • I really like this post and all the advice here. I’ve never actually read a Nicolas Sparks novel, but I’ve seen a lot of the movies based off of them.

    • Guest

      Thanks! He has had a wildly successful career–I figured it would be worthwhile sharing some of his tips!

  • eva rose

    Nicholas Sparks’ stories are certainly captivating. He could have fun with one from our family.
    Wilma and Bobby grew up in Charleston and met as teenagers in the 1930’s. She was an excellent seamstress with beauty queen looks. He was the football captain and the best dancer in their crowd. A typical date meant sharing a cherry Coke with two straws and splitting a package of Nabs (Nabisco crackers or cookies). On sunny days they were drawn to the beach, Wilma in her one-piece pink bathing suit lathering baby oil to promote her golden tan. Saturday night meant dancing to the live bands at the old pier stretching to the water with ocean breezes as their air conditioning.
    They shared a life, enduring a tornado which killed Wilma’s only sister and a horrific accident at the paper mill which took Bobby’s left arm.
    In their senior years, they held each other and danced in their living room to the same tunes from starlit nights at the pier.
    When Wilma died, Bobby secluded himself at home and cried for almost a year.

    • Karl Tobar

      How tragic! But it’s beautiful how they lived through all of that together.

    • Thanks for sharing. I’d love to read more about Wilma and Bobby. 🙂

    • Christine

      Here are two lives condensed into a few paragraphs, but it makes me want to read the whole story.
      So sad for Bobby. When two people make one life, the tearing apart when one dies is devastating. A friend of mine said that when his mother died, his dad lost his mind.

    • This is a great story, joyful and poignant at the same time! Regarding the bands at the pier, I’ve read that those excellent bands could generate just as much excitement in a crowd as the rockers did decades later. The recordings left behind show why.

      The tornado taking her sister, accident taking his arm, the hard jolts of a life lived together, the two of them always there for each other.

      Remembering how my Grandmother was after Grandpa died, your last sentence is entirely believable and understandable and very poignant.

    • Susan

      So much of this story captured my attention…the vision of their lives floated in front of me. At first read, I thought it was a simple retelling of two lives, but then the details touched my heart.
      “…an excellent seamstress with beauty queen looks. He was the football captain and the best dancer in their crowd.”
      “…with ocean breezes as their air conditioning.”
      “…they held each other and danced in their living room to the same tunes…”
      It’s the story of a generation, although certainly not all were so tender or touched by such tragedy.

    • Katie Hamer

      This story made me feel so sad. Thanks for sharing!

    • Margaret Terry

      I don’t do this often, but when I read your last line, I exclaimed “Aaawwww…” out loud. Such a sweet, tender story. The whole thing rings true and lovely – well done! I could read a lot more about Bobby and Wilma…

  • Karl Tobar

    I don’t know exactly how my parents met, but this is how I picture it going down.

    ~ ~ ~
    He was well familiar with the feeling of being watched. All eyes on him (they’re
    watching all of us, not just you, Deano) waiting for him to miss a note or for his voice to crack—that was a feeling he’d despised but grown used to in the time he and the boys had been playing together.

    Covering REO Speedwagon in a smoky barn one summer night, the eyes were again on him (they’re looking at all of us, Deano). This time was different. The feeling of being watched was there, people talking and smoking and dancing on the open floor in front of their “stage,” which had been nothing more then a large rug at that point in their career, and some of the people were looking, yes, but he felt a different gaze sweeping over him, this one more positive, less judgmental. When he saw from where the gaze came, he knew.

    There she was. She was young—younger than any of the others, and younger than himself. Her silky hair, light brown in color and shiny in texture, hung freely
    from her high school face and it swayed with her. She danced well. He saw her holding a conversation with another girl, smiling, laughing, keeping one eye on him, and stepping-two-three-four with the music and all this she did with seemingly little to no effort.

    He may have missed a note on his ’74 Fender Stratocaster, for he felt the eyes of his bandmates on him as well. Ricky behind him, his snare drum sounding like something cheap you make in art class. Tony playing bass out of the corner of his eye, and Dean would swear he was shaking his head in silent scold.

    She didn’t care if he missed a note, and he didn’t either (if he had missed one at all) for though she was dancing and watching, and he was playing and watching, neither one was listening to the music. They were listening to each other’s heart beats.

    Outside after he’d finished his set, some of them gathered behind the barn smoking cigarettes, drinking beers. It was a time of long hair, of tight jeans and loose shirts. It was in the age of early twenties and figuring out your fate, man, and being free and taking in the good. When she stepped around the side of the barn, everything Ricky was talking about became lame. Ricky’s words hit his ear and fell to the ground, as if they crashed into some imaginary wall.

    Maybe it was the night sky behind her, but she seemed to glow, her hair continued to shine despite no light, and her pale skin radiated with youth.

    “I’m Beckie,” she said.

    “Dean.”

    • That’s awesome!! Great scene. 🙂

    • Christine

      Another great start that leaves your poor readers hanging!

      • Karl Tobar

        They fell in love and had two wonderful children. One of them lives in Florida and is studying for her Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Assisting, and the other lives in San Diego and is a passionate writer. 🙂

    • What a great story, man! ” . . . snare drum sounding like something cheap you make in art class . . .” is hilarious!! I played in bands around my hometown of Fort Worth in the mid-1970s, including out on the infamous Jacksboro Highway, and those joints were much as the one you describe. The very first one I played in actually had the net over the stage to catch flying beer bottles! And one time the drummer passed out in the middle of a song!

      Thanks for the sweet story and the memories.:)

      • Karl Tobar

        thanks for reading it, John. I was looking forward to your reply on this one!
        Music is hard to write about, but I think it fits nicely into certain scenes.

        • Well you did a helluva job here. You must have seen your dad in musical action?

          • Karl Tobar

            Plenty of times, and I’ve been to plenty of concerts–on and offstage.

          • 🙂

    • David

      Great story, Karl. As a musician myself (not good enough to ever make a living at it, but hey, a dream’s a dream) I can imagine the scene because you describe so well. Good job!

      • Karl Tobar

        Dream that dream, man! I still play my guitar and pretend that a thousand people are in front of me. That is not likely going to happen, but a strong enough imagination can make you feel like it’s happening.
        And love is most certainly that way. Thanks so much for taking the time.

    • Katie Hamer

      This reads entirely like it could have happened. I like the way you describe performing in a band. It’s very atmospheric. I guess you couldn’t write like that, except through first hand experience. Thanks for sharing!

      • Karl Tobar

        First-hand experience definitely helped with this scene. Maybe that’s why it turned out so well. It’s hard, you know? Being a fiction writer. It’s not possible to experience every single thing first hand. I guess you just have to hope that the “made up” parts are believable.

        • Katie Hamer

          I agree. It can be a challenge to write about things purely from imagination. I guess that’s where sharing your writing helps: to be able to see it from a fresh perspective, and to see how well it works.

          Being able to access information on the web is also a bonus. It helps to cut out some of the footwork of traditional research. It couldn’t and shouldn’t replace more first-hand forms of research, but certainly helps to eliminate some blind alleys.

    • Margaret Terry

      loved this Karl – I could picture the smokey bar, the crowded dance floor and the whole scene…well done! Particularly loved this: “She didn’t care if he missed a note, and he didn’t either (if he had
      missed one at all) for though she was dancing and watching, and he was
      playing and watching, neither one was listening to the music. They were
      listening to each other’s heart beats.” So romantic, wow.

  • madeline40

    I’m writing a novel now and I’m glad that I’m following at least one of Sparks’ tips. I’m writing about my grandparents and parents, but changing up the story quite a bit to give them a much more happy ending (at least in my estimation). I also am writing a bit out of order, but having a list of scenes has helped me keep things straight. Thanks for the tips, Monica.

    • Yes, I think Sparks said he changed the ending for A Walk to Remember, which was about his sister who had cancer. If you’re going to immortalize someone you love, why not give them the fairy tale ending? 🙂

      • madeline40

        Absolutely what I have in mind. Thanks, Monica. 🙂

        • I never read that novel but I saw the movie and it was great! Reset in like the 1990s or 00’s. Great story about being yourself in spite of other’s surface judgments and derision (Jamie). Not to mention great Love Story!

  • The following story was told as true in my family many years ago:

    It was around 1932 or 1933. Jack Fisher and his wife Burnie Bessie (nee Watson) were on their way out of Grapevine, having concluded their weekly shopping. As they started down the two-lane highway back to Roanoke, ahead on the edge of the road stood two ladies, one of them with a thumb out. They looked decidedly foot-weary and distressed. Burnie, easily moved to pity, exclaimed, “Jack, those two ladies got trouble, let’s pull over and give them a ride home!” Jack slowed and pulled over to the side of the road and asked the ladies, “Where y’all headed?” “We’re tryin’ to get back to Fort Worth.” Burnie exclaimed, “Jack, we can take ’em that far, we got nothin’ pressin’!”

    So the two climbed in the back of the 1930 Chevrolet sedan, and down the highway they headed. Burnie, ever the talkative one, made several attempts to engage the ladies in conversation, but they replied in monosyllables or not at all. Puzzled, Burnie looked over into the back seat and noticed that both “ladies” were wearing men’s brogans under their gingham dresses, and on closer inspection their hair might well be of the wig variety. Burnie silently communicated her alarm to her husband, who looked back himself, and spotted the same anomalies, plus one of the two had a hand under “her” clothes, grasping something by the handle or grip.

    The rest of the ride unfolded in silence.

    After they let their hitchhikers off in Cowtown, Jack turned to Burnie and said, “Don’t you EVER prevail on me to pick up hitchhikers again as long as we may live! That was Clyde Barrow and Ray Hamilton!”

    • Karl Tobar

      Whew, that was a close one! I don’t know who those two are, but from context I assume they were dangerous criminals?

      • Yes sir, I should have explained for non-Texans/Oklahomans, Clyde Barrow was the Clyde of Bonnie and Clyde who led a bloody criminal career ending with bloody death at the hands of law enforcement — and Raymond Hamilton was one of their main accomplices.

        • Karl Tobar

          Holy crap! Clyde was a cross-dresser!

    • Omg–I’m glad they survived to tell the story! Wow.

    • Katie Hamer

      Wow, this is a true story?

      • Well, My Grandpa (Jack) and Grandma (Burney) told it as the truth, and I tend to believe it.

    • Margaret Terry

      Great story, John – even better knowing it’s a family tale! Brought back memories of hitchhiking and danger and the excitement of being a teenager. Now I can tell people I know someone who is related to someone who helped Clyde Barrow escape…:)

      • Thank you, Margaret. Isn’t that wild? There is one detail I realized later I got wrong – there were no “wigs” involved in the “ladies”‘ appearance; they were both wearing those old-fashioned sun-bonnets women used to wear, which would have obstructed the hair and part of the face as well.

        Grandpa and Grandma were capable of pullin’ my leg on occasion, but they would’ve had to collaborate fairly elaborately to tell one this tall, so I tend to believe it!

  • David

    Despite what others might think, Steve really did feel sorry for Tanya. Granted, she really was good looking and had a great figure but honestly, that was a bonus. Tanya had recently relocated from out of state. She had to take the bus every day to and from work. She lived only a couple miles east of the mall, but had to take a bus to the west side of the river to connect to the eastbound bus line to take her home. Steve thought she deserved better. No family near by, her brother Jason and his wife having moved over seas only a month before they met. Just a young couple, Alan and Francis, nothing more than acquaintances of Jason’s really, to watch out for his kid sister while he was gone.

    Tanya had come from a broken home. Been on her own since she was sixteen. Steve thought she was from the south because she spoke with just the slightest hint of a southern drawl. Actually, she was from California but most of her family originated from Oklahoma and Georgia so she picked up the inflections because she was raised hearing them every day. This is the story Steve came to know … later.

    The fact is, Steve was enamored with Tanya from day one. They met late one summer, working together in a camera store. She had been there for a couple of months before he was hired. The film counter was the bread and butter of the camera store’s business. It was all hands on deck for the 5:00 PM rush when everyone and their brother and their brother’s best friend came in after work to pick up their freshly developed photos.

    It was 1980, before the digital era. A time when photographs were more like a commodity. If your film was ruined in processing or by your own ignorance it really was tragic. Nothing like today when you see pictures on the camera in real time and if one’s no good you simply delete it and take another. People had to wait to see the fruits of their labor, good or bad. It was different then, heightened anticipation raising the electricity in the air. Making customers testier and sparks behind the counter, at least for Steve, just a bit more electric.

    The film rush was the time when everyone usually put the most money in their tills and since commissions were part of their paychecks it was crazy. But for Steve it was the opportunity to be close to Tanya, sales mattered, but they didn’t. If she was in his way looking for her customer’s film when he was trying to find the film for his customer, he would ever so gently put his hands on her waist to move her aside. He loved it! It was a mass of bodies on both side of the counter the customers on one side the store people on the other and Steve loved bumping in to Tanya. She liked it too. Night after night, elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, bit by bit, the buds of love began to grow.

    That was thirty years ago and Steve still loves to bump in to Tanya but now he needs no excuse. She still likes it too …

    • Victoria

      I like those last two paragraphs 🙂

  • Monica, thanks so much for the post! I find it fascinating to hear how other writers approach the writing process. According to Sparks, he’s working at about a 400 word-per-hour rate. I was around 500 and found it so depressing to hear of other writers who clock in at 1000, 1500, or more! But then I read Rachel Aaron’s book, 2K to 10K, and discovered that comparing these numbers isn’t like comparing apples to apples. As Spark mentions, his time includes THINKING. That is a huge time-suck. And it’s somewhat difficult to quantify or metric. I’ve since tried to separate my “thinking time”, which I can accomplish anywhere at any hour of the day, with my “writing time.” That is, I try to know as much as possible about what I’m planning to write that day in advance, before I start a writing session. I’ve only begun the switch, but I’m hoping my words-per-hour increase. Right now I’m in pre-draft stage of my next book, and even there I am seeing an increase in productivity due to pre-thinking…

    Interesting stuff….

    • Yeah, I spend a lot of time “thinking” as well. While I would like to write in the mornings before work everyday, the time constraint doesn’t work well with my process. In the evenings I have the freedom to write and think for as long as I need (although this has occassionally led to me staying up until 3am!). Good luck with your projects!!

  • Katie Hamer

    I will always remember the day I met Enid.

    I was busy carrying cardboard boxes of belongs from my car to my new flat. It took a lot of repeat journeys, carrying them up the concrete steps that led to the front door, a couple of floors up.

    I was fully absorbed in my task, and wasn’t immediately aware that my progress was being observed. Then I saw her, an elderly lady with immaculate white hair, dressed in a twin-set, and wearing comfortable slippers. She was standing by the railings, a few doors up from the flat I was moving into.

    “Hello there” I said. As I got nearer to where she stood, I put my box down.
    “I’m Emma” I reached out my hand to her.

    “Oh, you’re not from around here, are you dear?” She smiled at me, her eyes
    filled with curiosity. She took my hand briefly. Her hand felt frail and dry,
    like an autumn leaf buffeted by the wind.

    “No, I’m not. I’m from Surrey. I’ve come here to study.”

    “I’m Enid. I’m a Valleys Girl, lived here all my life. I do hope you’ll like it
    here. You must pop round later, for a chat. I’ll make you a lovely cup of tea.”

    Later on that day, I rang Enid’s doorbell.

    It took a while for her to answer. Then the door creaked open, and Enid was there, smiling at me.

    “Oh, do come in dear, I’ll put the kettle on.” She showed me into her living
    room, and shuffled into the kitchen.

    I wasn’t sure about taking a seat, although the three-seater sofa looked inviting. My attention was attracted to the large floor to ceiling windows, beyond which I could see a view of the Gower peninsula. The sun was out, creating pin pricks of light on the buoyant waves. I could see the light revolving on the Mumbles Lighthouse, providing a safe-haven for homeward bound ships.

    Then my attention was drawn, by the chiming of a clock, to the mantelpiece. Small busts of Tutankhamen and Nefertiti jealously guarded either end of the marble plinth. In the middle was an assortment of framed sepia tinted photos. There were two, which caught my attention. One was of a young man with a neat moustache, in military uniform, looking directly and unsmilingly at the camera. The other featured the same young man, on his wedding day, still in military uniform, but beaming as if to say he now had everything he ever wanted in life. He had his arm firmly round the tiny waist his bride, who was wearing a classic lace wedding dress. Her face, which was framed by chestnut curls, was lit up as if by a halo, as she gazed into the eyes of her new husband.

    I heard a clatter behind me. Enid had wheeled a little hostess trolley into the
    living room. On the trolley were two cups of tea in fine bone china, and a
    selection of biscuits, arranged on top of a paper doily.

    “Oh, do come and sit with me, dear” She said, noting my interest in her photos. “That’s my late husband, Aubrey. He passed away not long ago.”

    I felt awkward at the mention of her husband passing. Should I say how sorry I was, I wondered. She continued before I had a chance to resolve my dilemma.

    “We grew up in the same street, but he was a good few years older than me, and spent his time in the company of his friends. Then, when war came, he joined the RAF. I did wonder if I would ever see him again.

    “I was in my early twenties when the war ended. I was engaged to a visiting squaddy, from the north of England. He had wanted me to move back with him, to live near his parents. I told him I would think about it, but my heart wasn’t in it.

    “Then one day, while I was working in a little arts and crafts shop, playing
    around with the latest range of Poole pottery, when I heard the shop bell clang
    behind me. It was Aubrey. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw him.

    “He looked more handsome than ever. Just a few years older, but he had matured from a young man into someone who could command your attention. I nearly dropped one of my vases!”

    “’Enid, it’s so good to see you. What are you doing working here?’ I remember him saying. I replied, ‘Oh, I’m earning some money to help support my Mother. I’ve been helping with the housekeeping since my Father hasn’t returned from the war’.

    “‘My how you’ve grown up, and looking so bonny! Seeing you makes me forget all my troubles during the war. I’ve missed you, really I have. Will you do me the honour of accompanying me to the Summer Ball?’

    “That’s when he glanced down, and saw my ring.

    “‘You’re engaged?’

    “I could sense he was feeling awkward, so I looked him directly in the eye, and
    said, ‘Oh that! It doesn’t mean a thing!’”

    I had to suppress a giggle when she said that. She smiled at me conspiratorially.

    “How long were you married for?”

    “Just over sixty years. Aubrey had been part of an amateur dramatics group before the war. Very good at acting, he was too. He gave that up, when we got married, and joined a firm of solicitors. He built a good career out of conveyancing.

    “We never had any children. Sometimes, I regret that.” She turned to me and
    said, “Make sure you have children while you are young. Never leave it too
    late.”

    I sat there, taking in her advice, and drinking her sugary tea. From that day on, I visited her regularly, and we became firm friends. I often invited her around to my flat, but she never took up my offer. She didn’t want to impose. She felt safer, I
    guess, in her own flat, surrounded by all her memories. She shared many of her
    stories with me. I felt in some way like she’d adopted me; that I’d become the
    child she never had.

    • This is a wonderful story of the start-up of a great friendship, one that sounds like it was enriching for both persons. As a Southern U.S male, many of the cultural elements are exotic to me, but the very human desire for friendship, the discovery of another’s history from a previous time, the sense of safety in surrounding memories, are universal themes that always make a good story. Sounds like a true story?

      • Katie Hamer

        Hi, John. Thank you for reading my story! Your critique is most useful, as it has defined in my mind some themes I can explore further. You say you find some of the cultural elements exotic. I hope they weren’t confusing! Will you me know if they were?

        You ask if it is a true story. Parts of this story have been taken from real life, and parts from imagination. I have met many fascinating people over the years, and have been privileged to hear their stories!

        • No, they are not confusing, your description is very vivid and quite understandable. Reading a story set in a different culture requires my most attentive reading, and sometimes I must stop and puzzle a bit until it becomes clear just what is meant, but I usually get there eventually! You’ve written a fine story here. Embellished history makes the best stories I think, and the ability to describe fascinating people one has met vividly is a true gift.

          • Katie Hamer

            Why, thank you John! I look forward to sharing many more stories with you, and to reading your’s as well!

          • 🙂

    • Karl Tobar

      Such beautiful descriptions of Enid’s apartment (or flat, I suppose, in the UK)
      And what a beautiful friendship. I bet she has endless stories to tell.

      • Katie Hamer

        Thanks for your feedback, Karl. I’m glad you liked the descriptions. I did use the word flat but, for the record, I think apartment sounds much nicer. We, in the UK, do often get terribly confused between apartment, department and compartment though! 😉

        Yes, my story does describe a beautiful friendship. I’ve noticed that people can all too readily dismiss elderly people. I hope, through my story, I’ve been able to show what amazing life experiences they have to share.

    • Victoria

      Katie, I absolutely loved this and enjoyed reading every word 🙂 I’m an American, but live in the UK. The cultural references made perfect sense to me.

      I love the point you made that we can learn so much from those older than us. I think it’s lovely hearing stories from the past and imagining how it must have been when they were young.

      Enid is so lovely … I wish I could visit her flat and meet her myself!

      • Katie Hamer

        Thank you for your glowing feedback, Victoria! It’s interesting to know something of your background.

        I’m glad you liked Enid. It’s knowing people like her that has made me feel at home in Wales. I don’t think I could live any where else now!

        Have you ever been to Wales? If you haven’t, I’d highly recommend it, especially the Gower peninsula and the Brecon Beacons.

        • Victoria

          I’ve been to Wales once, but it was quite a few years ago. I was young and don’t remember much of the trip 🙂 It would definitely be nice to visit again sometime. I’ll keep your recommendations in mind!

          • Katie Hamer

            🙂

  • Rebecca

    Thank you for this post, Monica! I’ve been trying the “2,000 words a day” thing. It is challenging, but it really boosted my writing. Every day is six pages closer to finishing the first draft… 🙂

  • Margaret Terry

    Thanks for this great post and lessons, Monica! The “writing out of order” concept is sooooo helpful to me right now as I wade thru my WIP. I feel like I just got permission to go for recess…I have read only one N. Sparks book but have seen more film renditions…I spent more than 15 minutes on this as I was all over the place with these characters and hadn’t considered when they met (in the WIP, he is dead and she is elderly) Here goes:

    Julia never said if it was Matthew’s accent she fell for first or the envelope…

    “It was a white letter sized envelope, so fat with pages she wondered how the sender managed to seal it. With the dozen or so American flag stickers wreathed around the base like a flag necklace, Julia assumed the letter was from a child. How sweet, she thought. Probably sending a few drawings to a grandma or grandpa overseas.

    The post office queue was longer than normal so she leaned to the right to see how many people were waiting. The meaty man in front of her who clasped the star spangled envelope leaned to the right at the exact same time and blocked her view. Without thinking, she sighed and made that clucking sound that drove her friends mad.

    “Seven.” The letter man turned to face her. “There are seven more to go before you, but if you’re in as great a wild hurry as your grand sigh indicates, I will happily trade you places.” He towered over her and smiled with his whole face.

    Julia felt the heat immediately. She wasn’t sure what was burning more. Her pride or her cheeks. “I…ummm…I…” She considered bolting as she dug deep to find something clever to say. She had always been fast on her feet, a skill
    she learned working as a bartender to support herself through college. “Do you ever wonder why there are so many people using the post office when we
    have email and paperless billing now?” That’s good, she thought. Small talk
    makes people forget what they were doing. Or hearing . Maybe he’ll forget her
    clucking.

    He burst out laughing. “Well, well, aren’t you a comical one!” He tapped the top of her head with the fat letter. “Does it often work for you to talk so daft? I bet you are some fun at parties…” He laughed some more as he fanned his face with the envelope. Julia noticed a sing song quality to his deep baritone. Irish? Scottish? Maybe an Aussie? She could never tell the difference.

    “Your kids like being Americans?” she asked pointing to the stickers.
    “I don’t have kids.” He smiled and held the envelope in front of her eyes close enough for her to read:
    Miss Bridie Franklin
    St. Anne’s Hill, Tower,Blarney,
    Cork, Ireland ‎
    +353 21 438 5346

    “I’m the one who put the stickers on the envelope.” He turned it over in his hands and examined it as though it was a rare bird he’d discovered. “Bridie is my grandmother. She raised me after my mother died. When I left Ireland for a scholarship at Julliard, Bridie told me I’d never last more than five years in this godless country. Each year I’m here, I add another sticker to her letters.” He traced the row of flags with his index finger and searched Julia’s eyes. “I’m Matthew, by the way. Lover of this godless land and all her beauty…”

    • Victoria

      I really enjoyed reading this. It’s fun to figure out what brought characters to the place they are now. It can add so much dimension to their lives, even if you don’t include all the details in your WIP.

      At the beginning, I was a bit confused about where Julia was standing. I thought she was the lady behind the counter at the post office for some reason. It could’ve just been me 🙂

      • Margaret Terry

        thank you, Victoria – I agree with the confusion about where Julia was standing – just didn’t have time to fix it as wanted to put it out there with the dialogue which felt more important…thanks so much for reading it and your comments – much appreciated!

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  • Mark Nelson

    Learn how to write crappy sappy love stories. I like the way Melvin Udall summarized how he was successful writing similar stories.

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