Writing a true novel is like dueling with a cockroach; penetrating and exploring the past could get real messy. Don’t kid yourself if there is anything else you can think of to do, go ahead and do it. It involves a truckload of continence and revision.
You begin by dreaming about the past, sorting through old pictures and searching for and actually finding old friends, who you later discover were better left in the dark.
You set your scene; research the town you grew up in and thought you knew. Lots of surprises await your discovery under the dusty covers. Then you get to pick which roads to go down and which ones to pass up. It requires enormous energy and creativity; buckets of right and wrong decisions line up for inspection. Old issues march up to, and then parade-rest at your door. Closure takes on a higher meaning, something akin to, should I tell them about the implant, and which one?
Who is your audience? Why should they care? Can anything human relate? Or should you save the paper for puppy training? Why now, have you achieved enlightenment? Who will it hurt or help? Precious time is spent writing poems, honey-do and shopping lists, feeding the dogs, and taking pictures of cloud formations. You spend an inordinate amount of time reading other inspired memoirs and novels, and spending time with the grandkids, anything but writing that damn book…
But wait there’s more, you have to get your facts straight, no embellishing to make it more interesting; names need to be correctly spelled and a time frame established. Trust only a handful of your friends to read and critique. Don’t post online if you want to publish a chapter elsewhere. Take all advice with two aspirin and try not to get confused; one chapter at a time. Find a group meeting and stick with it.
Don’t forget about Aunt So and So, who worked at the Library and discovered the cure for that deadly virus, or the Uncle who won the bronze in Seoul, or the neighbor from next door who died of Cancer because family and friends will get mad at you if you leave them out.
Show them, describe using all the senses, make it colorful, who was popular, what music was playing on the radio and what did you wear. Sprinkle in some dialogue with a dash of character. Pack a punch, leave them wanting more and don’t solve all your characters’ problems; your next blockbuster is wheezing in the wings.