My fundamental philosophy about writing is very simple: I want to have fun, I want my readers to have fun, and I hope, if we’re both lucky, that they learn something.
I’ve long understood that the third part of this troika, the learning, is both a product and a cause of the mammoth amount of research I do for even the simplest pieces. (And yes, I did look up Fat Albert on Wikipedia just to write the first sentence of this supposedly throwaway blogpost).
I’ve also understood that the second part, my readers having fun, is why I need to constantly work to hone my craft. That’s why I don’t self-publish, but work with a publisher with a strong editor who serves as a gatekeeper and holds my work to a high standard. That’s why I attend a writing group; that’s why I work with beta readers; and that’s why I’m writing a monthly column on writing called The Centaur’s Pen over at the Write to the End blog.
But only tonight did I realize the first part is why I need to fall in love with my own stories. When I’m writing a story, I can power through it if I have to, daydreaming sequences inspired by music, character and knowledge, weaving those scattered fragments together with the rules of plot and conflict, and winnowing the chaff until what’s left is a cohesive whole.
But I’m better off if I fall in love with a story. I need characters to spring to life in my books and derail them, like Cinnamon in FROST MOON or Beneficenitor in HEX CODE (in progress). I need settings l fall in love with, like the Werehouse in FROST MOON and BLOOD ROCK or the Werehold in HEX CODE. I need vehicles on which I want to lavish detail, like the doomed Abadulon in DELIVERANCE (unreleased) or Independence in MAROONED (forthcoming). And I need scenes that I desperately want to write, like Dakota’s challenging encounter with Transomnia in FROST MOON or her somewhat different encounter with the Streetscribe at the end of BLOOD ROCK.
I realized this need for love of my own work when I caught myself daydreaming about the first encounter of the Freemanship Independence with a mammoth Dresanian starship near the end of BESIEGED, the third book I have planned in the Seren series. A clip of “The Planet Krypton” shuffled through my iPod, I realized how the aftermath of the climactic battle could be shot in the movie … and then began daydreaming how all the characters would react to what’s happening.
Visualizing the Independence docking against the backdrop of a giant door like a Michael Whelan painting, a scenario I can visualize so strongly I was inspired to scribble it down on the spot, the question occurred to me: “Would the hero Serendipity finally secure sanctuary for her people … or would the war criminal Seren finally be called to account for her crimes?” And how would the crew of Independence react if someone else came to claim someone they’d chosen to claim as their own?
That’s falling in love with your story: when you think about it so much that random clips of music inspire you to write scenes, but you don’t just visualize them, you are forced to think through how all the characters will react to what happened, how it fits their own personalities, the setting, the story.
That’s what you should strive for in your writing: a love for your story that goes all the way down to its bones.