What I want to write has no limits when I can be inspired by road kill.
How many people actually realize what their lifelong passion will be when they are just a little tiny kid? I had three passions: music, art, and telling stories. Music was an impossible dream – I’m not a singer and there was no way we could afford instruments, let alone the lessons to go with them. Art was a big deal for awhile, but eventually supplies became hard to come by. Writing stories, though? That was easy. No matter how broke we were, I could always get my hands on some paper and when I got interested in using the computer…? That became my life!
The internet gave me access to people and information from all over the world and it was such a huge influence on how I approached writing stories. I discovered roleplaying (the collaborative writing kind, not the kinky kind) and through that experience I learned what made compelling characters, interesting plotlines, story arcs and hidden meaning. I’d research grammar tutorials to improve my writing skill, I’d research cultures to add more realism to characters or places. I learned where you needed to add more description and when you needed to keep things concise.
And yet I have never actually finished a full story before.
Roleplaying is the absolute best thing in the world for stimulating your creativity, inspiring you, and generating ideas! But… it’s also very distracting and very few roleplays actually finish. There’s been a couple here and there with a few great partners, but most dry up before ever hitting the good stuff. For years I’ve been putting together plots and characters in all kinds of situations and genres, but have nothing to show for it outside of a bunch of profiles and scene notes. My life long dream has been to write a novel and here I am at 36 years old without even a first draft.
The worst part is that despite my large collection of potential novel ideas swimming around in my story hat, so many of them were tested out in collaborative projects that I’m now hesitant to use them. Legally, I know it’s fine if I go about it properly (years of having to study copyright law helped with that), but I often feel like it’s cheating and selling myself short. Insecurity likes to inch it’s way in, suggesting that I can only write when boosted up and supported by others. I have my own stories to tell, I know I have the skills to write them, but am I actually able to make progress without someone else to build off of?
I don’t know yet. We’re going to find out.
Ignoring all the stories tainted (I don’t want to say tainted, since it’s more inspired by than tainted, but when you want something that is all your own, tainted is close.) by the muses of others, what do I have to work with? There’s a surprising amount of stuff I have that is general ideas, jotted down in the middle of the night after a weird dream. Or concepts I wanted to “do right” after reading a terrible book or watching a bad movie. Most of them are skeletons of stories, where the blanks need to be filled in by a cast of characters I’ve yet to come up with.
It might be easier to choose if I could settle myself into a genre. My biggest influence is Romance. I’ve probably ready a thousand trashy romance novels, where character driven story lines are sprinkled with gratuitous sex scenes. My first exposure to something outside of romance was probably The Belgariad by David Eddings (Thanks Ocha <3) where I fell in love with Fantasy. As a kid I read so many Nancy Drew novels that for awhile I was sure I'd be a Private Eye as an adult. And thanks to the influences of Star Wars, Star Trek and Firefly, I could easily design an entire galaxy full of planets for a sweeping Sci-Fi.
Just pick something and write a little bit every day.
Last year I tried National Novel Writing Month again, and for the first time I actually made some encouraging progress. Mind you, I used a roleplay for the inspiration and I never got to the actual writing of a first draft, but I discovered that I am a planner. I picked something and I put together an outline of the chapters, scenes and characters. Described what was supposed to happen in each scene, how it influenced characters – start to finish. It made me feel like I actually do have everything I need to write a whole novel by myself, as long as I take the time to flesh out the details before I sit down to try and write chapters.
As it turns out, November is a bad month for me to sit down and focus and I wasn’t able to do NaNoWriMo this year (and have failed all previous years for the same reasons, who chose November?) but I’ve been putting some serious thought and planning in to what I want to write. I know that I need to start with something simple and familiar for a first novel. Trying a multiple novel fantasy series is pretty ambitious even for me. Yet, I feel like playing it safe with a classic Romance would be boring. I need something to be excited about sharing.
Blogging seems to be a good way to build a writing habit.
Years and years ago I had a blog that I basically used as a ranting board and public journal. I was a teenager and young adult, so obviously the vast majority of it was whining, vitriol, and self righteousness mixed with a nice dose of ignorance. (That’s the great thing about the internet, you can behave like a complete ass for all the world to see and if you’re really unlucky someone will keep a screencap of it.) Really, the only good thing about it was the chance to reflect on my feelings and that habit of writing every day.
The easiest way to get started with regular writing is to talk about yourself. Even if all you’re doing is writing down what you did that day, what you ate, or what pissed you off. This past year I’ve had a hard time writing. Outside of a few attempts with Oz to work on one of our collab projects, I’ve otherwise not written a thing for myself. Not even inspirational writing guides for Muse, which usually come to me so easily.
This is the first step the my ultimate goal.
Every day I’m going to try to blog at least a thousand words. What I write about won’t be that important (though I hope through all of my varied interests and experiences it will at least be entertaining to someone), but the act of using my brain to piece together words on a regularly scheduled basis should be a good exercise for me. Warming up with something simple like that has always been helpful in the past when I wanted to get back in to writing stories. If you don’t keep practicing you lose the skill, right? At least I know when I flat out can’t write, you can expect to get some exciting content like my Youtube playlists or a bunch of poor quality cat pictures. Cats are the gods of the internet, I’ll never go wrong there!
About my very first book, though…
I still haven’t decided which story I’m going to tell first. I’ve been jotting down notes on a small selection of plots and seeing what sparks my imagination, but as I’ve mentioned in my first blog there’s been a depression roadblock I’m still trying to work past. Melancholy has been kicked out the door, my desire is back, but I’m still having trouble doing. This habit building should help me a lot, and I hope as I share my progress we’ll all discover what that project is going to be. What could be more motivating than a shared adventure?