Monday, April 30, 2012

Writing is Like a Hysterectomy, Guest Post by Lisa Lickel

AuthorCulture is happy to present this guest post from soon-to-be contributor, Lisa Lickel, multi-pubbed author, editor, and blogger. Enjoy a different voice for a change!

Because I once made the profound observation to a group of young people, "our lives are like a story so make yours one people want to read," a recent medical procedure had me sitting around, thinking.

Writers live in story.

Why was this medical procedure a necessity? Writers must write. My medical symptoms changed the story of my life, necessitating an adjustment. In order to undergo surgery, I followed a progressive line of discovery, much as I would to set up a story. I prepared the best I could, am working on following rules, and hoping for successful results.


What makes a good story—one that needs to be told? In other words, how bad can it be, and what is your character willing to do to overcome the problem? 

When I was 45, I started having pain in my mid-region joints. My family has a history of arthritis, so I assumed. I’m not much of a complainer. I once underwent the entire replacement of all my dental fillings with no anesthesia. When I got to the point where standing long enough to wash dishes brought tears, I visited my family doctor who was less than sympathetic. He pointed out that my bones were dense. Small favors. He also thought maybe I should explore that specialty I’d managed to avoid for the past five years while other family events took precedence.

Like realizing that an original story line might need adjusting, I sucked it up and underwent the ickiness of learning that the doctor was a good guesser. I adjusted because I wanted to overcome the problem, even though I was content in my first version.


And decisions. Now that I knew my storyline and desired outcome, I needed to figure out how to make that happen. I talked to a couple of people, I researched types of surgery and possible problems, talked with the doctor who had specific goals for me, and we decided on a particular procedure. The laparoscopy equipment wasn’t available, so we had to make another decision. Stay here, or go elsewhere. I had already established a tie with this surgeon (she has a Kindle and uses it), so I stayed. 

Just like working with an editor or publisher, writers need to be willing to listen carefully to expert advice and have some faith. 

I asked the anesthesiologist if I could try something different to avoid a pitfall I’d experienced earlier. The medical people agreed to my unusual request of trying major surgery without general anesthesia. Be willing to explore out of the ordinary technique.

On being aware of procedure.

I truly wanted to hear everything in the operating room during the surgery. I did. I could have handled it fine. They let me have spinal anesthesia, but refused to allow me to be aware during the surgery. The first thing I said when I regained my senses was, "Darn, I fell asleep! Did I snore?" 

Our subconscious has an amazing way of letting our deepest and funniest and most tender moments out. Don’t be afraid to daydream and write streams of conscience. Some of my best ideas have come from places I would have controlled away.

Working by committee has its ups and downs.

I didn’t get my first-hand experience in the operating room. I did find some pretty cool videos on the net and I did make a list of questions to ask at the follow up appointments. I had several nurses aiding in my recovery. The first nurse kept poking me for my own good. We had to learn when feeling was coming back. Then she shooed me out—with more relief than I thought totally necessary. 

When writers work with critique groups and pre-readers and editors, that poking teaches. A writer can’t possibly follow every bit of advice, but we can pay attention to the poking. All of the research isn’t going to fit into the story, so writers need to carefully weed out what is the most important and entertaining bits to move the reader past the main conflict and into the next set of bumps.

No sex for how long?

In other words, Creativity helps. With a finite amount of themes, or plots, how can a writer come up with something fresh? Mix it up. Let your characters act out of their comfort zone and solve a problem inside the letter of the law. Then again, Anticipation keeps your readers turning pages. The pacing of discovery keeps the reader coming back. I knew I only wanted to stay one night, if necessary, in the hospital. They don’t let you sleep anyway, so why bother? I had to meet requirements, which I exceeded. 

Pacing means getting past the boring parts quickly. Hint at and make conflict and possible conflict and continued conflict exciting. I didn’t let up on the fact that I was going home the next day as soon as I could, despite the fact that my low heart rate and breathing constantly set off alarms.

Healing, or "They never mentioned the part about the hair growing back. Under the tape."

As I said, I’m not a complainer. I only used a couple of painkillers while still feeling the affects of the spinal, and that was for a headache. As I began to move around more, pain surfaced, and I needed to decide how much and at what point I needed help. I also got very good advice and scolding.  

Editing is the absolute necessary evil that determines outcome. It’s often uncomfortable and painful. Any manuscript needs tweaking, but you, the writer, determine how much to listen to others, to the person who’s paying you, and finally, to yourself.


The first call I got the day after I was home was from the nurse telling me there was no cancer. Good. This was like the day I learned my manuscript had been accepted by the publisher. 

As I began to be more mobile, I realized my initial symptoms were relieved. I had to rely on people around me to do the work I was used to. I had to learn when to bite my tongue and when to step in. I received notice from my publisher to expect substantive edits soon. We started with the back cover copy. This is how most readers determine whether or not to open the book, after checking out the cover and title. How much do I trust this new publisher? Doesn’t matter. I have to have faith that the procedure will be successful in the end. I’m not going to agree with everything. I don’t have to. Standing without pain was my goal. Getting my story into print was my goal. Mission accomplished.

The next story can only get better.
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives with her husband in a hundred and sixty-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. Surrounded by books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Her published novels so far include genre romance and cozy mystery, women’s fiction and paranormal. She has penned dozens of feature newspaper stories, short stories, magazine articles, and radio theater. She is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin magazine. Lisa also is an avid book reviewer, interviewer, a freelance editor, an editor at Port Yonder Press, a writing mentor, a hostess at Clash of the, contributor to Novel PASTimes, and enjoys blogging at and She loves to encourage new authors. Find her at

The Map Quilt is A Sweet Romantic Cozy Mystery Novel by Lisa Lickel

Death in rural Wisconsin is only the beginning to new chaos in Robertsville. What do a stolen piece of revolutionary agricultural equipment, a long-buried skeleton in the yard, and an old quilt with secrets have in common? Hart and Judy Wingate, who met in The Gold Standard, are back to solve the mystery of The Map Quilt. Hart’s new battery design could forever change the farm implement industry. But after the death of Hart’s most confrontational colleague in a fire that destroys Hart’s workshop, the battery is missing.

Throw in a guest speaker invited to Judy’s elementary classroom who insists she owns the land under Hart’s chief competitor’s corporate headquarters, and a police chief who’s making eyes at Hart’s widowed mother, it’s no wonder Hart is under a ton of pressure to make sure his adventurous pregnant wife stays safe while trying to preserve his company and his reputation.

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  1. Great analogy, Lisa! Having had both (hyst AND edits) I'd say the comparison is spot-on. But I must say—the edits were easier to endure. :-) But both (good editing and good post-op results) make me glad I submitted. :-)

  2. Thanks for sharing with us, Lisa! I have a feeling writers are about the only people on the planet who look at anesthesia as research. :p

  3. Thanks- all writers must have some angst and great suffering, alas, to endure.

  4. It's definitely a tight-rope-walk when it comes to listening to edits. Lean too far one way and the story is no longer yours, lean too far the other and you risk it not living up to its potential. So far, I've been blessed with wonderful editors! Thanks for sharing with us, Lisa!

  5. Love your analogy. Like Elaine, I, too, have had both, and you nailed it. Can't wait to read one of your books. Nicely done.

  6. Been there, done that, and hearing "no cancer" is the sweetest sound on earth!

  7. Looking forward to your future posts. I had some health problems recently, too, but though I've lost some hearing and have no equilibrium, the pain issues have largely been overcome...does that mean my writing might suffer since I'm not? :)