#WeNeedDiverseBooks, amwriting, writing

Story Ideas: Idea to novel

About four weeks ago, I got bit by a bug.

Not mosquitoes. [Though, okay, yes. Those too.]

I mean, the writing bug.

Years ago when I was getting my writing-legs under me, I read Stephen King’s book On Writing. [If you ever daydream about becoming a writer pick this book up and inhale it immediately] He reminded me a writer’s job, whether they write contemporary, fantasy, or speculative fiction about tribes of dancing koala bears, is to observe the world and to inflect it in our stories so that regardless of how fantastical or fictional it may be, the ultimate universal human truths within resonate.

Like most people who love writing, I am constantly observing the world in which I live. The grocery store checkout line. The park. A kid’s birthday party. I’m living that moment and I’m also filing away the things I see and the things they make me wonder about. The sigh. The shrug. The awkward laugh. What was behind it?  Each of us has a life, a beautiful and unique life and I wonder– what is it like to live it?

You’d think with my constant eavesdropping observing I’d have forty-five novels up my sleeve. But it’s more like I have forty-five journals filled with observations, sketches of ideas, and the occasional brief beginnings of a possible story. Writing out ideas is one thing, but a completed novel? That’s another beast entirely.

For a novel, brainstorming isn’t enough. Observing isn’t enough. And while I know it works differently for all different types of people, for me, my story ideas- the ones that wake me up early or keep me up well past my bedtime are the ones that hit me from out of nowhere, sudden inspiration.

Well, sort of.

The truth is, those hours of observing aren’t in vain. It’s the observing and thinking and daydreaming that compile in the subconscious, marinating and percolating until one day, a story forms and strikes you like thunder and tells you I am the one. 

How do you know when an idea is the one?

It’s weird to say, but it’s a bit like love, you just know. It’s the one where you feel like the characters are speaking to you. It’s the one where they are telling you: This is my story. Tell it. Now.

And much like love— it’s not enough on it’s own. Love is the foundation upon which you lay the structure that requires work. Lots and lots of work. Sometimes its fun. Sometimes its illuminating and soul-affirming, but sometimes it’s difficult, confusing, frustrating and sometimes it’s boring.

But at the foundation is love. You must have an inspiration you love.

And that’s what happened a few weeks ago. Driving to the bookstore an idea presented itself. I chatted with K about it, my trusted friends, and then from those seeds bloomed the glimmers of a story and the voice, her voice, started speaking to me. I sat down to transcribe the voice. And I’ve been at it ever since. I’d say it’s like magic to dream up people who feel as real to you as flesh and bone except that in the spur of writing, I daresay I think it is completely magical. 

So that’s what I’m doing lately. And between pushing kiddos on the swings at the park, keeping the house in fucntional order, working on fantastic projects with my WNDB colleagues, and then staying up well past my bedtime writing, it’s been busy here in the best possible of ways. And while there are evenings I don’t want to write, like not at all [and those days you might find a tweet. or two  a flurry of tweets on twitter] I do try to maintain the daily discipline because like love, writing a novel requires work to take it from a nice idea to a real and tangible thing. 

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”-Louis L’Amour 

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