I’ve always been curious how writers come up with their ideas and then transfer that into a novel. Some of the ones that I’ve read about say they make an outline. Others use various techniques such as character creation, giving their fictional hero and villains a very detailed history and information on what makes them tick. From there they say that the story writes itself with a little imagination. This probably works for some, if not most people. Perhaps I’m just not creative in that type of way, because I could never write like that. Let me explain…
Books have always been a part of my life. I’ve often picked up a paperback from the drugstore or news stand while out traveling, only to find that after a few chapters into it, it’s one that I have already read. Typically, I read it again anyway, especially if it’s a good book. Sometimes though, the plot, the characters, or the tone are just so bad that I use it as a trade at one of my local bookstores. Very few times in my life have I ever started a new fiction book and not finished it.
In fact, after forty years of reading, from best sellers to indie books, there are less than a handful that were bad enough that I couldn’t read all the way to the last page. Recently, one of those books joined the list. I will not divulge the title or author’s name (which is why I could never be a good critic – I’m too damn nice), but I will tell you that it was in a genre that this author had published in many times before. I mentioned to my wife that this book was awful. After 142 pages, there had been very little action, the plot was nowhere to be seen, and I wanted to kill every character in the book with a fictional nuke.
Always supportive, my wife said, “Well, if you don’t like it, then write your own book.” I’m almost positive that she meant that I had some talent as a writer, and that it had nothing to do with possibly curbing my weekly spending spree at Amazon, Kindle or the local bookstore. Regardless, it started me thinking… what if?
Of course, the only writing of mine that she had to go on were a few dozen poems in the early years of our marriage (I know…now I feel guilty and need to go write her a poem), and some college papers I showed her. I had never completed a short fictional story, unless you count some embellishments on a few of those college papers. How then does she really know if I have what it takes to write and publish a novel? Several of my published college professors told me that I was a talented writer, but again, 99% of the things I wrote were not fiction. How could anyone really know if I were capable of actually writing a full length fictional novel?
Over the years ago, and even before college, I purchased over a dozen ‘how to’ books on the craft of writing. Some of them were very good, a couple were not. Nearly all of them had one thing in common though. They made the art of writing sound easy. Don’t get me wrong – nowhere in the books did it say, writing is easy. In fact, many pointed out that it was a very difficult profession. Some even had you take a test to see if you had what it takes to be a successful writer. For the record, I did not pass any of these tests.
Though I attempted to write a short story the way the books suggested, I just couldn’t make it happen. Perhaps I read the wrong books back then. How now, twenty years later am I suddenly expecting that I can not only write a story, but a complete novel? Because I know that I can.
With no outlines, character creation stats, and no idea what the story is or where it’s going, my goal is to write and have published, a better book than the one that I most recently could not finish. If I do get it written and published, I feel that the author of that crappy book deserves a thank you on the dedication page for setting all of this in motion. Just saying.
So, what’s my plan to go from a blank page to a published novel without these time-tested and proven techniques that the books on writing insist upon? Simple. I’m going to start with, “What if…” and follow that up with “What happens next…”
At some point I may need to create an outline or do a detailed character analysis, but I can almost assure you that the story will be well under way by then. Why am I telling you this? Because I think it would be a tragedy if other aspiring authors never attempted their dream, and were held back by their inability to follow the directions in many of those writing guides. Yes, doing it their way may be faster, but it also takes the fun out of the creation process. At least it did for me.
One of the primary goals of this site is to help inspire those that have always wanted to write. For everyone else, especially the published, I hope you get a few smiles during your visits here. Bookmark the site and come back often to check on my progress. Your comments are always welcome.