If you have been following my blog, you are probably aware of the determination with which I started taking definite steps toward achieving my long-term dream: to become a full fledged author by the time I retire from my day job. In the last six months, I launched my blog, got into a habit of posting weekly, picked up a few books on writing techniques, started developing some of the ideas I had been kicking around for years and I created a separate Twitter account in order to follow members of the writing community and soak up any knowledge, expertise or wisdom they were willing to share.
What a rush! I could not have foreseen the journey on which I had embarked.
First of all, I could not anticipate the generosity with which people would share information on how to write. While I am an experienced technical writer in my line of work, corporate status documents and fiction are vastly different. The technique behind writing for novels and screenplays is a completely different language, one might say, with its unique structure of plot, dialogue, flow and characters. In a short time I have learned a great deal, just reading post after post from authors, literary agents and publishers, all aimed at helping the aspiring author. How very kind! (I imagine it probably helps them out in the long run too in raising the bar on the quality of the materials they likely receive).
While I thought all of the above were the tangible steps I needed to get things rolling, what surprised me most was that just by creating a favourable environment for my creative passion to take root, I did not anticipate that it would take off like the legendary “beanstalk”.
When I originally set out on this journey, I thought I could focus on a weekly blog and in my spare time, I could start chipping away at one of the writing projects I had saved for a rainy day and slowly see one to the end. Unfortunately that hasn’t quite happened, but it went in a direction I did not expect. Frankly there are some days, the ideas that are coming so fast, it is difficult to capture them all. I am very serious about capturing everything because I am convinced that each idea has its place… the trick is finding which place, in which story. It is like a puzzle.
Over my many years of journalling, I have accumulated a significant repertoire of ideas for characters, plots, dialogue, tv pilot ideas, movie ideas, and a Broadway musical, to name a few. Sometimes it is just a few words, sometimes it goes on for pages. Some came to me as dreams, some came to me as “what ifs”, others came to me when I was thinking of something else completely… I admit, my imagination sometimes works in strange ways.
The problem is that now that I have opened Pandora’s box of writing, it’s been like a Boxing Day Sale stampede of all of these characters that have been on the shelf, sometimes for 20 years, all showing up out of the blue with elements to add to their character arcs, plots finding their tension and story ideas finding a common theme tying them together with a nice neat bow.
While I am certainly not complaining, sometimes it can be a little inconvenient especially if you don’t have the tools to record the idea, like behind the wheel or in the washroom. As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago I had to bring a notepad to do groceries and errands as I had an ensemble cast of 12 having a party in my subconscious, each wanting the time to “tell” me how and where they fit in the storyline. It’s not like you want to call the cops and shut down the party, you need to capture it all. What is weird to me is that I am not sitting down and actively thinking, “Hmmm… what would this character do and say?” Dialogue comes to me.
When it does, I feel more like a court recorder, transcribing what seems like a very natural discussion between two charcters. However, this causes two problems. The first is that I am not working on one story, I am juggling more like 6 at the same time. The second is that when the stories write themselves like this, one puzzle piece at a time, they are not necessarily being written in sequence.
I suppose it could be much worse, like sitting at my desk and staring at a blank page/screen for hours, experiencing the feeling of writer’s block. But if the spare time I have for writing is spent capturing, massaging and expanding these seemingly random ideas into what could become full fledged stories, then this should be seen as a good warm up exercise, on my way to the second career of my dreams.
At this pace, it will likely take a while for any of these projects to come to fruition. Frankly, I am fine with that as it is not really my goal to start working with publishing deadlines at this specific time, when I already have a demanding career on the go. In addition, I don’t see it as a bad thing if I have stories forming one sentence of dialogue at a time or one idea at a time, especially when the idea is a pretty good one and adds significant value to a story-in-progress. I can’t wait to find out how the story ends!
I cannot say I have read of any other authors that work that way, but for me it seems to work right now, even though a more logical, linear approach is probably the more conventional route. However, if they shoot movies and TV shows out of sequence, why can’t I write out of sequence if that still yields the product that readers will eventually be looking for?
As much as I answered my calling, I think it has already answered me back… in ways that surpassed my expectations! I am very grateful!