I have a confession to make. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. But I’ve really had no clue how to go about it. So while I’ve had the urge to write things as they appear in my head, (vignettes, snippets, scenes) and the odd poem or so, and even written 4 short stories (countable on one hand, yes, tragic, I know) – I have only once attempted a book, and that was 26 years ago.
I feel like a 40 year old virgin.
I’m learning though, from a professional, how the hell to write a book, beginning with how to pull an idea out of your arse, and develop it into something called a story.
I do have an idea. It’s totally surprising to me in many ways, basically because I left my Muse, my waltzing Matilda, back at the highschool bus shelter when I hightailed it out of town all those years ago. Then I kidnapped her and held her to ransom for the next 20 odd years, threatening her with all sorts of nasties if she didn’t keep her mouth shut. Ever since I decided to untie her, take off her blindfold, ungag her, and ask her if she’d like to stay with me on my creative journey through life (amazingly she said she’ll think about it) I have been asking her to help me navigate. Sometimes she’s hesitant (fairly natural after the treatment I’ve given her, I’d say), so I make suggestions. To which she says “NO!”, a lot.
But how does this relate to what I’m trying to write? Well, for a start, I’m not actually writing anything yet. That’s part of the deal of what I’m learning, that I plan it all out a bit first. All of it, mind you. Not just the book and all it entales (sic, I like a nice pun), but my career as well. My career?? I can only hope.
So I’m planning my book, alongside the other stuff, ie, my career, all made entirely possible in this day and age of self publishing. The career is easier to plan than the book. It’s a set list of tasks that I can do and tick off and accomplish. The book on the other hand…
My problems as they stand right now:
1. I don’t know how to allow her to help me to find our way to the heart of the story.
2. I have limited faith in my own imagination because frankly, I’ve stifled it for so long.
3. These two problems multiply into each other and create a cubic metre effect, which sits like a great big block of concrete in my mind and squashes flat all attempts at creativity. Problem 1. multiplied by Problem 2. equals “you can’t do that!”.
How this translates into reality:
I have a story that I wanted to set in the ancient world, with fantasy elements that work in the ancient world because people believed shit back then. But. The whole story hinges on one protagonist whom 1. I can’t yet picture clearly and 2. is a boy/merboy and a slave, working at a job that in the ancient world was predominantly done by women, and not in the areas that I would want to set it, if I knew where the hell I wanted to set it.
I wrote it all out according to the lesson I’m on at the moment, working on the technique I’m struggling to learn from it. I asked her where we should go from there and she went quiet. I made a suggestion and she said “No! Not where you’re headed!”. Logic was fighting with imagination in the backseat and we were tussling over the wheel in the front. We swerved and skidded and as I braked we smashed into a wall. Everyone sat absolutely still. We were both a little bloody. I put my head on the wheel and sobbed.
“I don’t know where to go now!” I wailed.
And then this golden princess by my side who I’m shyly falling in love with, reaches out her hand to cover mine. She gives it a little squeeze and I look at her and she says – “You need a wardrobe.”
Exactly. I think it’s time I let her drive.