Writing a book, like finding love, is a sacred pursuit. No one can tell you how to do it any more than they can tell you how to fall in love. It just doesn’t work that way. It’s not a simple thing. There’s a mystery to it – and the mystery is what makes it wonderful.
The essence of writing can’t be deduced to its most basic pieces, documented and reassembled in the same way every time. In fact, one must be careful in even attempting to dissect and analyze the writing process so much that we kill the very living thing we had hoped to preserve.There is magic in writing. It must be given room to breathe and live and grow in its own way if it is to be of any good to the writer or the reader.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for sage advice or ‘how to’ books on the subject. We often find our own way by studying what has worked for others. Much like a long, happily married couple are worth listening to and learning from when it comes to your relationship with your spouse, a successful author’s observations about their own relationship with writing may certainly help you in your own pursuit.
But today’s post isn’t as much about advice as it is about observing the process itself. It’s not Valentines Day yet, but we’re going to celebrate the mystery of love and writing anyway.
It Begins With a Spark.
An idea. It could come from anywhere. Your heart skips a beat or two at the thought of it. There is no way to force or fake it. You don’t know where it comes from or why it comes, but one day…there it is. The idea you’ve been waiting for and searching for serendipitously pops onto the scene and commands your attention like nothing else in the room. It’s the “Oh-that-would-make-a-great-story” moment.
If you’re a regular reader of Speculative Faith, you’ve probably had a few of these moments before. Ideas are everywhere. But what if you can’t seem to make a connection with one? What if your idea tank is as dry and dusty as one of those candy hearts? Is there hope for an idea-less author this Valentines Day or are you doomed to write alone…without inspiration?
I can’t guarantee an idea will find you any more than I can guarantee you’ll find love, but there are a few things you can do to better position yourself to have an idea.
I find that simply reading awakens the writer in me and fills my literary awareness with new thoughts. I read books, the Bible, blogs, news articles and movie reviews in hopes of igniting the spark of “what if’s” that ultimately guide me to a great story.
- “What if all guns were outlawed? Would crime truly cease?”
- “What if Noah was building a spacecraft totake the DNA of every animal and man to a distant planet before the world was destroyed?”
- “What if my dad really was a secret agent for an enemy nation?”
- “What if a high schooler with a fatal disease runs away on a senior camping trip with her friends despite her parents warnings and they get lost.”
The Thrill of the Chase
The first glimpse is where the story begins. But sadly, for many aspiring authors, this is as far as the story goes. It is nothing short of childish infatuation. Perhaps they are too afraid to take it to the next step and see if the idea is worth pursuing further, or perhaps they are in love with the idea of writing and not the act of writing itself.
Whatever the case, the idea quickly dies. The moment passes. The story is over before it begins.
If this is you, don’t worry. It happens to all of us. I have many story starters trapped in my little black book of ideas. Some of them are more intriguing to me than others – old flames that died out before I even gave them half a chance. The key is to pursue one. Don’t just think about them.
Collecting ideas is good, but writing them is even better. Perhaps someday, I’ll get reacquainted and see some of those old ideas through to completion, but I’m a one story at a time kind of guy. And there’s a reason why. A good story, written well, will take all of your focus.
Infatuation Vs. Inspiration
Like a budding relationship, the thrill of the chase is exhilarating for awhile. But how do you know if the idea is worth pursuing as a book? The answer comes in asking yourself this question: am I willing to commit myself to writing this story everyday, for as long as it takes? Some ideas are nothing more than temporary infatuation – a momentary crush on the new girl (if you will). These ideas are worth writing down but shortly after putting your pen to paper, the intrigue disappears like invisible ink. It was only skin deep.
Writing, like courtship, is a long process. There are no shortcuts. Your job, if you really want to win the idea over, is to find your way to its heart. Dont’ just talk about the story, dive in and spend time with it. Write. Write. Write. There are no shortcuts. When you invest long enough, the time will come when something changes. Your infatuation with the story will suddenly turn to true inspiration. From that moment on, you’ll be committed to the story and for the first time in the relationship, you have a real shot of finishing. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations…the worst is almost behind you.
Fight For It
There will come a moment in your story-writing relationship that you’ll want to call it quits. The idea wasn’t what you thought it was, something isn’t working and you just want to go back to the infatuation of a new idea for awhile. My advice to you is…don’t. You may need to take a break from your book for awhile, but writing, like love, is hard work. It’s not for quitters.
I wanted to quit writing our second novel Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire so badly. The plot wasn’t working, my characters weren’t cooperating and I was desperately lost. I thought I had a dud. Even worse, while I was in the middle of writing it, the first novel won a Moonbeam award. Suddenly, I felt as if I was in big trouble. How on earth was I going to top the first book. Everyone would know that I was a hack writer, right?
I’m glad I stuck it out. Our second novel went on to win awards as well, and has been one of our fans’ favorite books in the series.
The point is you have to be willing to fight for what you love – even when you don’t feel like it.
Tears of Joy
Writing is truly like a marriage. The love and effort you put into it comes back to you in tenfold rewards. I remember fighting harder than ever before to finish the third novel, Hunter Brown and the Eye of Ends. As I was writing the final scenes I realized that I had invested so deeply into it, that I began to physically cry as I wrote it. I knew, at that point, something wonderful had happened. I was connecting to my book in a way I never once imagined possible when I first had the simple idea years before. The book was changing me. I knew it would be a special story for others to read.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” ― Robert Frost
So, do you love to write? Do you really? Are you committed to pushing past the giddiness of infatuation to the heart of the idea? Are you willing to put in the hours it takes to make that idea blossom into pure inspiration? Will you fight for your story, forging ahead through the darkest times until you reach the place where tears of joy flow?
I hope so. It’s one of the most magical experiences in the world.
Just be sure you never let anyone else’s romance become your own. Some days come easier than others, but it is always worth the chase.
What are some of your craziest ideas? Share them in the comments below.
Have you experienced difficulty in loving your writing? Share that too.