Why Books are Like Babies

First off, can you believe it’s already August? Where has the summer gone? There’s something about this time of year (and around Thanksgiving) where I feel IMG_2970like I’m on time’s roller coaster ride.

One minute it’s May and then suddenly August is here and I feel like the whole summer has flown by. I suspect the school calendar plays a part in this phenomenon because younger son would always start whining about having to go back to school (the infamous countdown would begin).

Well, not this year. Steady readers of this blog, may recall he graduated in June (my baby, my baby!). This year he and his older brother will be attending college together. So while they are still going to school, there is no complaining involved (well, except for the ridiculous cost of college texts).

All this thinking about time, combined with the recent birth of the royal baby (HRH Prince George) got me to thinking about how books are born in my brain. While pursuing two books at once (Mystic Hero is pulling to the lead, so by the time you read this, it might be the only book I’m writing), I’ve noticed that the story is often born while I’m writing it.

What?!? But what about all that talk of plotting and planning?

Oh, those things still happen. But like any story, I leave room for new ideas to hatch. I also rely on the characters to dictate how they react to the barriers I toss out. There is no way I can script every waking moment of the story. I decide on the big events and let the rest fill itself in.

So like a baby, sometimes a book can take forever (Mystic Storm – almost ten months) and others are done in less time (Misfortune Cookie – two months). The Undead Space Initiative poured out of my brain like there was a big hole in it and I could barely keep up!  (Note: this is writing time. Not the time it took for me to plot and plan.)

And like babies, nature can’t be rushed. Some characters, like Zephyr, in Mystic Storm, gave me nothing but trouble. I think it may be because of the whole “cursed to be a woman by day” thing (which I am not apologizing for!).

Not to be too graphic, but any woman who has gone through labor knows that babies don’t just come out in one easy push. And neither does my writing. I can have a week of super productivity and then another week where I have to flog myself to sit down and write. However, I will add a caveat. I did have younger son in my bathroom (in under a half hour of going into labor). He was apparently so eager to enter the world, he couldn’t wait!

Just goes to show –  you never know!!

Has anyone else had this experience? Do you have some books that just take forever to come out of your head?


Write What You See

Before I discovered writing, I was an artist. I loved to draw and paint (still do, but writing is my love now). I spent most of my childhood and early adult life in artistic pursuits. People who don’t draw (or write) often marvel at it. Like its magic and only those gifted with “talent” can create pictures or write stories. I feel sad when I hear that.

Here’s the secret to drawing/painting:

  • Draw what you see.
  • Practice. A lot.

Really look at the object or world as it exists in front of you. Not what you think it looks like. Maybe some of you have heard of drawing from the right side of your brain? It’s a process that can be learned with practice.

Writing is the same way. It’s a craft like any other. Some have a natural inclination towards writing and others have to work harder at it. Just like anything, really. Natural ability will only take you so far. You have to want to do it and have faith that you can succeed.

No matter your skill level, there’s still plenty to learn. I think once you’ve made the decision that you don’t have to learn anymore – you’re doomed to stagnation. Creativity needs to be fueled with new experiences and other ways of seeing the world.

I’ve read interviews by published authors who say that they write what they see. The story unfolds in their minds like a movie and they record the events as they happen.

That’s often how it works for me too. I actually see scenes and hear dialogue. It’s very exciting when the story comes that easily. And when it does, I just hope that I’m near my laptop so I can get it all down. Even more exhilarating is when my characters stop being theoretical and come to life.

I’ve had writers tell me that they don’t like to let their characters go off on their own. When I don’t listen to my characters or follow along, the story suddenly stops working for me. Just like drawing what’s really there, I say – let your characters have some freedom. Who knows where they might lead you and the story?

You can probably guess what I’m going to say about writing. Write what you see and practice. A lot!

How do stories reveal themselves to you? Post a comment and share. I’d love to hear from you.