Sunday, August 7, 2011

From Mindscape to Word Processor

As this is my first "content-based" blog post, I want to get a basic, common sense disclaimer out of the way: I am going to talk a lot about writing in this blog. I am in no way an expert (at least not yet), nor do I represent the views of any other author or organization. This includes any agent, editor, or publisher I might have some day. In other words, any advice or opinions stated on this here blog belong solely to myself unless otherwise stated. Now, onto the fun stuff.

  For this first post, I want to explore what actually starting to write in my "built universe" felt like. It's something a lot of new authors (like myself) struggle with. I think it's important to talk about, because for many aspiring writers, the point where your universe becomes "real" is a huge barrier. Hopefully, reading about my experience will help some of those so afflicted take that first step into literary reality.

"...begins with a single step."

Alrighty, so at this point in my writing career, I am currently at the stage of the writing process (of my novel) where I am just beginning to draft my first chapters. Before I arrived at this stage, I spent upwards of a year researching and working through the process known to super-insiders as world-building; using stream of thought, outlines, etc, to build the setting in which your story takes place. Some people also lump "plotting" and "character development" in with world-building. It was the first thing I did when I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Personally, I spent months building the history, places, and characters for my world. The result was an incredibly detailed and well-fleshed out secondary world setting. Spending a long time world-building is common among new fantasy writers, including myself. Yet most of us never get past that stage. Why?

For me, it was fear. I fought writing my novel for the longest time. Mostly, it was because I was afraid to put my world and characters down onto the page; to make them tangible. I feared that if I wrote them down, they wouldn't be nearly as good on paper as I had envisioned them. I cared for my world, my characters, and my history, and I didn't want them to be revealed as less than I thought of them. And so I continued to let them stew in my head. As I've said before, many new writers find themselves in similar dilemmas. So how do you escape? How do you start writing?

I finally convinced myself by taking the equivalent of baby steps. I wrote short stories. Many of these take place within the world of my novel, giving me a place to explore my world and characters in a somewhat low-risk medium. It was still scary as hell, but I was able to overcome my literary cowardice, and I am eternally grateful I was able to do so. Once I started to write things down, I noticed that things started to come alive. Characters started taking on lives of their own, and the places I had only before imagined became organic. They were so much better than I had thought, and through critique an consideration, I learned I could revise them and make my babies even better.

Before I wrote that short story, I was only considering becoming a writer. Afterward, I knew what it was I wanted to do for a living. Now, several of these stories are nearly ready for submission, and one of them is already out there. I have also finally started my first novel.

Like many things worth doing in the world, writing is about overcoming fear. No matter how you do it, you have to eventually take that first step. If not, than you should go ahead and give up. Continuing to layer your world isn't doing any good past a certain point. But seriously, don't. There are few things more satisfying to me than the act of creating a new story. Allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised. It'll be OK. :) As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.



  1. Do what you love to do. Life is to short for "What If's" Just open your imagination and you will know what if. Looking forward to reading your noval.

  2. My dear fellow Word Weaver Jarryd: Just as I love the tone of your stories and the tone of your voice, so do I love the tone of this piece. You have beautifully captured the essence of scariness in taking those first writing steps. Never quit taking those steps, because your writing is meant to be shared !

  3. Thanks Anon, I will :) Candice, thank you so much for your comments, I always look forward to reading them. :)

  4. The way to the dark side, fear is.

    Okay, just saw Luke's light saber and severed hand (wax) at amazing exhibit @Norton Museum.
    Also, Darth Vader and Obi Wan's costumes...

    Use the force, J!

  5. No kidding! I saw that exhibit last month. As cool as the SW stuff was, I really enjoyed the Star Trek stuff as well. The Indy stuff was pretty cool, too. I mean, it was the freakin' Holy Grail from the movie! :)

  6. Jarryd--When the Gremlin of doubt screams in my ear I play Martyna McBride's song "Do It Anyway" Here are a few lyrics from that gem:
    "You can chase a dream
    That seems so out of reach
    And you know it might not ever come your way
    Dream it anyway."
    As an author you have a story that only you can voice. I for one eagerly anticipate your work.