I was asked just last night by an acquaintance, after they had been told I was a writer, “Is it hard?” My first instinct was to tell them no, of course not, it’s fun and I love every minute of it. As soon as I had said this, though, I began to think; it is a lot of work, and the process takes a very long time, and if you push yourself beyond your limits for more than a few days at a time your brain can become a very strange place. I told him all this and a little more, but the question “Is it hard?” stuck with me. I think writing can be a challenge at times, simple at others, and downright infuriating at those all too common moments when nothing seems to work out. Writing is the process by which you turn the constant flux of thoughts and ideas inside your brain into a grammatically sound window of words through which everyone else in the world can see what you’re thinking.
If this sounds daunting and possibly hard, fear not, you’re in good company. I realize that I never fully explained if I still think writing “isn’t hard,” and that’s because I believe it’s a little more ambiguous than that. It’s a process, and one which I’m going to talk about today. I’m sure everyone has their own idiosyncratic ways of doing things, but these will be mine. This is the method through which I take an idea and turn it into a story.
You were warned in the last post (possibly enticed?) by the prospect of forge related analogies being applied to writing. Now, I am not a smith nor have I ever partaken in smith related activities, although I wouldn’t say no if someone were to offer a forge. I will therefore apologize in advance if I am off mark in a way which makes the blacksmith portion of my reader base say “What’s he mean by that? Has he gone mad?”
I would like to think that the first little inkling of inspiration I have when I’m pondering a book is like a lump of iron. It’s not pretty, it’s not fancy, and it certainly doesn’t look like a finished product. You can take just about anything and turn it into the basis of a book, as long as you’re willing to put in the effort and expand it later on. To stretch the analogy a step further, you can find inspiration anywhere, just like a lump of iron. I have a book filled with thoughts and plots that I’ve come up with while at the gym, going for a walk, taking a shower, or even while writing another book. What I’m currently working on I came up with at somewhere around 3:30am after concluding that the book before that was going to take one hundred years to finish. I was lying on the couch at the time pondering where I had gone so wrong in life—things are going much more smoothly now.
Anyways, back to the forge. So, you’ve got this lumpy idea that you know could be something amazing, but it isn’t quite there yet. In fact, it’s a long way off from even resembling anything more than the most abstract of shapes. Never fear, this is where you become a writer. You have the idea, this is the spine of the book, everything is going to be based off of this, the world, the characters, the speech, the alien-werewolves, everything. This is the point where you need to figure out where you want this book to go. What’s the end goal? Who’s involved? What do they want and why? Who’s the antagonist and why are they acting that way? What’s in it for them? You’ve got some things to figure out and unless you want to be doing some serious rewrites, which you’ll probably end up doing anyways, make sure the beginning is where you want it to be. I find that if I have the start of the book nailed down, if not with the text, but with the general direction that it needs to go, it makes everything so much more simple further down the road.
This comes to another point. I personally can never, ever, start a book at the end or the middle. I have to write in chronological order or everything becomes entirely too chaotic. It would, in my mind, maybe people actually do this, be like forging a solid piece of work in separate pieces and trying to fit them together when you’re finished. For instance, say you start at the end, or top of a sculpture and you forge the metal into the top half of a horse. You’ve got the head and most of the body and it’s looking good. Maybe then you set that aside and start working on the base—also looking good, it’s a solid platform and you’ve come up with some pretty radical ideas. You’ve got a whole scene going on top of that base with the bottom half of a person and some buildings. Now you’re to the middle where the end (a horse) meets with the start (people and the base). The two ends don’t really match, and now you have a reverse centaur. It just doesn’t make sense. At this point you’ll either have to redo the start or the end, or do something truly creative in the middle to make these two parts fit together. Maybe if you’d just started at the start all of this could be avoided.
While the idea that you might accidentally turn your horse into a human is a bit out there, it is very possibly to entirely change a characters personality throughout the course of a book. If you jump around and write bits here and there, things, at least for me, tend to not quite connect in a natural way. It’s much easier to alter plans for the later half of the book before they’re set in stone, metal, or ink. Ideas are malleable, much more so than fifty pages of text. While there might be authors out there who do this, and do it very well, it’s something that I could never do, and would not recommend anyone trying.
Wow, this post is getting to be quite long and I became sidetracked with chronological order and consistency of characters for a bit longer than I intend. I know people write entire books on the writing process, so I’ll probably have to break it down into a few separate posts. Next time there might be another section on this text, or a bit about my upcoming book, you’ll have to come back to find out.