Writers are an inventive sort. Often inspired by the simplest of things, we’re led to build complex worlds inside our minds. Some of us jot down notes, some of us just mull things over for a while until we’re ready to put the words down on page. Whatever the course, these imaginings slowly feed into our narrative process, and before we know it, we have created life on the page. Real characters, real worlds, real issues, real life – just maybe set in an alternate reality, or perhaps another world completely.
Our inspiration can come from anywhere. An object, such as a piece of radical technology, can get our minds ticking over. We might hear a conspiracy theory somewhere, which makes us think ‘what if?’. Sometimes we draw upon the fairy tales we heard as children. Or maybe we recall strange dreams which have intrigued us. Sometimes we meet a character in our real lives that makes us want to explore their world. Perhaps it’s a tragic story we’ve heard or seen on the news. Perhaps it’s a tale of happiness and wonder. Sometimes another art form will spark us: a movie, a song, a photograph, a painting, a sculpture. Sometimes the inspiration just comes from out of nowhere while we’re doing the dishes, tending the garden, driving to work, or taking a walk. Anywhere, anytime. However the story appears to us, once that seed of inspiration is planted, our story is conceived.
But what do we do next? Sometimes we’re just too busy to process that story at the time, so we put it on ice, and save it for another day when we’re ready for the challenge. Sometimes we don’t have a choice in the matter. Sometimes, that story just keeps knocking away inside us, and whether we like it or not, we can’t deny its existence any longer. Our story is conceived, it chooses life and it wants to grow.
So we spend the next many months working on this creation. We do a little world-building and give it a home to live in. We populate this world full of characters, and give our heroes/heroines friends and enemies, promising them an exciting life. Yes, an exciting life. Not an easy one. Our stories thrive on a challenge of some sort, be it small and personal, or be it of huge earth shattering proportions. As the saying goes, ‘Life was never meant to be easy’, nor should our characters be given an easy ride. If they are to be survivors, we must test them. Whether that be simply overcoming an emotional hardship, or literally fighting for their very lives.
So after those many months have passed, our first draft of the story is complete. There, right in front of us is our ‘baby’: small, squawking, pink fleshed and covered in goo. To others, not that attractive, but to us, the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen. But of course, this is just the beginning. Our ‘baby’ has a long way to go before it is ready for the real world.
The next stage is delicate, but critical. We nurture that baby. We edit and rewrite. We grow the story, we twist the plots, we research, and we fortify our world-building. Most importantly, we flesh out our characters. We take the little scrawny things they are and we strengthen their muscles and bones, their coordination, their speech. We refine their physicality: their eyes, skin, hair, teeth, smile. Moulding them as we best see fit, we know these characters better than we know ourselves.
By now our baby has grown into a child, and we’re ready to send them off to school. And by school I mean submit them to publishers. This is where the learning/developing really begins. Some days that child comes home from school upset. These are the rejections. We console them best we can, work on solutions to the problems, edit and rewrite, then send them out again. We spend our days reinforcing ourselves, hoping that all will be okay, and they will continue on and graduate to high school.
And it is a proud moment when they do. This is when a publisher has requested the full manuscript. Our ‘baby’ is becoming an adult. All the hard work so far is showing potential. We wait anxiously to see if our ‘baby’s’ application for college will be successful, or whether it will be rejected. And sometimes it is, but that’s ok, we’ll just apply to different colleges (publishers). But sometimes we’re incredibly lucky, we do win, and progress to the next stage: college.
College is the publishing deal. It’s the step not everyone gets to take, but your ‘baby’ has made into that special club. Of course the work only gets harder now! It is during college that our novels go through exam after exam; round after round of editing. They learn to be adults, they become polished and marketable, and before we know it, it’s time to send them out into the big bad world. Launch day has arrived.
And that’s where the hard work REALLY begins. This is where you need to learn to let go, as you have little control from here on in. The book is out there working and trying to earn an income. You help out where you can, a plug here and a plug there, but at the end of the day, they will do what they will do. Fate takes over, and you just have to let it lead them where it may.
And regardless of where that is, hopefully you will still be damn proud of your ‘baby’, as it finds its place in society, and takes on a life of its own.
Then, of course, you start thinking about the second baby that’s been knocking away inside of you . . . You’re ready to start the process all over again, only this time, you can learn from the mistakes you made with your first. You promise yourself you will be a better writer and deliver a ‘baby’ that’s bigger, stronger, and more breathtaking than your last.
And this, my friends, is a writer’s journey.