Personal Growth through Novel Writing – by Alan Vandervoort

Personal Growth through Novel Writing – by Alan Vandervoort

From the first page to the last page, personal growth is expected of main characters – a Scrooge-like transformation. The art of writing has obvious benefits – sharpening skills through editing, reading, and research. The storytelling ability of the author creates a change from indifferent to compassionate, greedy to philanthropic, satanic to angelic, hate to love.

Character flaws are expected in a main character. As the story unfolds, the character gains advocates from readers, rooting for success, and seeing the possibility of our own personal growth. During the creative process, the author has the opportunity to take the journey of transformation along with the characters.

The main character in my first novel goes from indifference to empathy. A high school student endures the trauma caused by an abusive father. The experience damages possibilities of friendships, mutually beneficial relationships, and romance. He copes by attempting to disappear from society. Avoiding relationships halts the fulfillment of purpose, and deprives one of joy.

His interest in music spurs proficiency and unwanted attention, including the attention of a cute, green-eyed neighbor. Being thrust in a position of leadership, he discovers the trauma he suffered gives him the ability to notice others’ problems, and accepts the responsibility to help. In response to this revelation, an author looks up from the keyboard to a hurting world with opportunities to help.

Writing has been categorized as a solitary pursuit. In reality, authors depend on the support of family, friends, editors, publishing professionals, and book-buying readers. In my second novel, main characters must overcome obstacles. The male character overcomes severe depression while the female character deals with multiple sclerosis. Each has strengths needed by the other. The vivacious personality of one produces positive effects. New-found love provides the strength to cope with a debilitating disease. They are stronger together. Whatever the situation, people have gifts needed by others, and benefit from the gifts of others.

My third novel – a work in progress – explores the cost of success. What sacrifices are necessary? When does striving for perfection – in lifestyle and performance – become destructive? The main character is a recent graduate from a prestigious arts college. She joins a New York City orchestra as a summer intern. The immediate goal is to make a living as a musician. A colleague makes her aware of the limited nature of her dream, and the necessary sacrifices to become the best. Rejecting a life of privilege allows concentration on a newly envisioned goal. During the journey, she realizes the success of others does not diminish her accomplishments. Empathy and excellence can coexist.

A familiar quote in the literature world is: “Write what you know.” I prefer the notion to write what you want to know. Why deprive the reader by using the limited experiences of a single life? Single experience is better suited for a memoir. The expanded knowledge through research adds enjoyment for the reader and author. With much of the world on lockdown, research becomes an essential tool in broadening the scope of a story. A wealth of knowledge, carefully reviewed, is available online. Research opens new worlds of information and delivers ideas for future works to the thrill of readers. I admit to using a question on “Jeopardy” in a novel. Inspiration is everywhere.

Improving writing skills, awareness of the needs of others, sharing strengths and benefitting from the strengths of others, and gaining knowledge are parts of the experience. Success as an author is elusive. Success as a person is available to all. A fulfilled life is achieved through a quest to accomplish both.

Alan Vandervoort is a novelist and poet. Born and raised in western Ohio, he is a graduate of The Ohio State University. His debut novel is Sandhills – A Novel followed by Key Largo Summer (both available at He describes his writings as explorations of human emotions in association with a variety of relatable enthusiasms. Alan lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with his wife and rescued cats and dogs. More information is available at and


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