It’s a tough call, being an artist. It’s like chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole, into the unknown. We’re not so afraid of what we’ll find; rather we are afraid of what we might never find. We race against ourselves though we don’t always realize it. The competition is with ourselves. How much further can we go down that rabbit hole? How much closer can we get to that rabbit? There will always be a better part – a part that can be played better than the last. There will always be a story that we can write better than the last; a song that can be sung better than the one before. At any point, we could stop chasing that rabbit. Turn around. Change direction. But we don’t. We’re compelled. Driven. Driven to succeed – to create something more – to catch the prize. We never do catch the rabbit. But some of us come close… very close.
My favorite moments are those few minutes just before I start a new project, when I’m staring down at that blank white page… the moment when the paper is untouched and feels smooth, before the pen has created ridges and impressions. In that delay, there is absolutely nothing. Yet the possibility of everything and anything exists. The idea of ‘possibility’ is fascinating. So much is possible, yet only one journey is chosen to fill the pages. A story. An expedition, if you will, into human emotion. Emotion propels the action and moves the story forward.
I’ll never forget writing the opening for ‘The Rubix’. One of my favorite places to visit is a quaint little village called Alma, New Brunswick. Alma is centered on the small delta of the Upper Salmon River and Cleveland Brook, where they empty into Salisbury Bay. There, I sat in a small restaurant called Fundy Take Out, laptop in hand, as my party went on a four-hour kayaking excursion.
It was a cool, wet, humid day. The light rain was intermittent, and the cloudy gray sky overhead just wouldn’t break. I ordered a coffee and sat at a table near the window looking out over the river and the mountains. Fog was descending over the tops of the mountains in the distance. The view was melancholy to say the least, spectacularly low-spirited in such a way that it allowed me to get into the right frame of mind for the scene I was about to write. The Rubix starts off with a murder, a string of murders that take place in a diner, and getting into that ‘mindset’ isn’t particularly easy for me. I had my ear buds in, and though I don’t usually share these details, for the sake of being transparent, I will admit that I had a song called ‘Illusions’ from Cypress Hill playing on a continuous loop. There were other songs in my arsenal that day, but that one (as an example) was a favorite. I wrote the first chapter so easily that the memory of it will always remain with me.
Location and environment directly affect the mood or inspiration/muse when I write. Along with that, music or background noise can set the tone too. That day the location was ideal. It was cold, humid, not sunny, and not very comforting.
Writing the union vows between Johnny and Darion for the book, Midnight Peak, however, was memorable for other reasons. The couple of paragraphs that became the wedding/ union vows that appear in the book were a discomfort to tackle. I had not written my own wedding vows, and couldn’t connect with the scene at all. I had avoided writing it for weeks. Pulling out all the tricks, I watched bridal shows, flipped through bridal magazines, watched romance movies, listened to ballads… but nothing was allowing me to connect with the scene that I had to write. One paragraph. It wouldn’t flow. I thought of deleting the scene—skipping over it—but the story wouldn’t allow for it. It was on the forth night of my ‘got to get this done’ frenzy, that I finally ‘got it’ and wrote the one paragraph that was needed to bridge the rest of the chapter together. How did I get it? I had been sitting in the dark until 2-3 am for four exhaustive nights at this point. The moment I let go of the importance and the pressure of writing a ‘perfect’ scene with ‘perfect’ vows… that was when everything began to flow. The part was never meant to be perfect—just exactly right for the world the characters lived in.
Story is a chronology of events. An account that takes you from a certain point in time (beginning) to another (end). But it is the discourse, the manipulation of that story that marks it for distinction. Use caution when manipulating story—experience teaches us many good things, not the least of which is how to be a good listener. A story carries a vibration, listen for it and you will understand. It isn’t a sound per-se; it is more of an inward inkling. An energy. A pulse.
In my first example I described how setting the mood or tone by using our surroundings ie: location, temperature, environment, and music can lead you to connect with or get into the right mindset to write certain parts of your story. My second example illustrated that sometimes the story wants to go a certain way, like a stream that carves its own path down a mountain, and manipulating the parts that don’t need manipulating means altering the story’s truth.
Practice. Patience. Relax. Breathe. Set the tone. Establish a feeling. Write a story.
All in a day’s work.
If you're wondering how this author gets her ideas together to create a book from start to finish, all you need to do is follow the posts to gain an inside look like no other...
Writing is a process, and what fills my toolbox may surprise you. That being said, whatever the muse or inspiration, the story always begins when the idea meets the mind - that is what I call conception. That idea then needs to mature. The characters need to grow and the story needs to find its heartbeat or rhythm. This period of time can be especially long and draining when the story is complex, but joining all of the pieces together from start to finish is very rewarding.
A story always needs a heart (emotion), and a backbone (purpose). Values and theme make a decent foundation, but a story is bigger than that. Even with a good strong foundation, I often find myself sitting behind the keyboard for a couple of hours with only a few sentences to show... those days are frustrating, but they happen. So how does it work then? How do you get from page 1 to page 401 or so on? Vision. When I let the idea sit in my mind for a while, it grows. For example, the idea for Battlefield came to me seven months before I actually wrote anything down - I created the characters for 'The Rising' sixteen years before I wrote the book. Oftentimes, I keep stories on the 'shelf' in my mind for years before I commit to writing them... my job is to get the ideas that are in my mind on to the blank page. The clearer the idea or story, the easier it is to write. Before I start typing away, though, there are two things that I need:
#1 Vision. It's always good to know where you're going. My ideas often come in spurts. I may have a bit of the beginning and a bit of the in-between. I usually see the ending unfolding as I get there. What I'm doing is connecting all of the dots in the right sequence. But there are often gaps. For instance, I may be in the middle of my story and all of a sudden I see something that will happen later on (like seeing point 'T' as I'm writing point 'P'). Now, I know where I'm headed, I have my vision, but there is a gap between what is happening right now in the story and what happens after... this is when I usually step away from the project for a bit. A short break - to focus on another story/another set of characters - is refreshing. It never takes very long before I'm on the right track again... (but it does try my patience every time).
#2 Connection. I can't write if I'm not connected to the character(s). Many things inspire connection, for example: flaws or weaknesses, goals, conflicts and/or struggles, desires, moral problems, and all kinds of things can emotionally draw us to a character. When I'm connected though, as the writer, the story flows a certain way (naturally). It's not forced or strained. The character seldom behaves out of character - because I'm in tune with him/her. I know the road they're on, I can tell when I'm veering off track (it happens). The longer the story sits in my mind, the deeper the connection. That has been my experience. I know Darion (from 'The Rising') like I know myself. I could even say that she was one of the very first characters that I created.
So... how long have I been writing? Let me backtrack a little...
I had a good friend in High School who liked to tell stories (lies too, but I'll never forget her tall tales). See there was a teacher who was consistently late for class, and my friend used those 10-15 minutes to tell stories (she loved to talk). She would have me on the edge of my seat - I mean I was listening intently. She easily drew me into her make-believe plots. One day though, in the middle of a dramatic climax, she announced that she had no more - she was done. No matter how hard I pleaded for the ending, she never gave it to me. Her response was, 'You can finish it yourself, you're a better storyteller - you just don't know it yet'. Well, I was just an average English student at the time - I enjoyed the class, but dreaded the workload. That friend of mine never realized that she had planted a seed that day. It took a while, but the frustration, curiosity, and aggravation took hold. I raided the local library - studying everything in the Entertainment/Arts section. That led to my interest in cinematography. I studied dramatic arts and choreography. I wasn't interested in being a novelist at the time - the art of movement and expression was far more captivating. I wanted to write, but I wanted to be involved in the cinematic industry - so I transferred to a different College and studied Dramatic Screenwriting. What I was doing at the time was this: I was building my craft. All of that training has enabled me to tell my stories the way I tell them. I still love screenwriting. The components are simple for me to understand and the stories can be more plot-driven than character-driven. At times, I still slip into 'scripting' mode, but I find that writing a book offers me a different kind of freedom. Freedom to put words together (and use adjectives), of adding rhythm, stringing style throughout it all - of experimenting with tone, exploring situations, finding truth, and setting up theme - well, it's just what I enjoy doing.
I'm writing my fifth book at this time. I have been writing (books) since 2003. Though I specialize in Young Adult fiction, exploring different genres is what interests me most. I have many different projects in the works - many new and unique stories to come.