I’ve been writing consistently since I was fourteen. I am now twenty eight, and through my years of writing short stories and novels, I have learned a few things. I don’t consider myself an expert in any way, but you don’t do something for fourteen years without learning something. One of these wonderful bits of insight is that writers are insane.
You’re really asking me how so? If you’re a writer, you should already know how insane we are, but I’ll humor you and fill you in on this little secret.
Most writers are naturally creative people, and many writers have different ways of working out their ideas. Some people outline obsessively. I’m talking about every single detail of their story is outlined in some way. Other people talk out the ideas that they have in their heads to work everything into a coherent thought. This is often done out loud and with a lot of pacing involved (I’m in this group of writers). Some writers stare at the blank page for hours waiting for something to happen, this either leads to brilliant stories…or a headache and a glass of pinot noir. Some just write until something good flows out, then they sift through the muck, looking for the diamond they know is there. There are about a million other ticks that writers have, but you get the picture, so I’ll leave it at that.
Does any of that sound sane to you? Over and over again doing the same thing? Keep on writing, and talking, and brainstorming until you finally have something to put down on paper? No! It’s insane. However, what comes out of all the insanity, obsessing, and quirks is a story, and a story is about as normal as normal can be. People have been telling stories since the dawn of time. Well, okay, maybe not the first people. There wasn’t much to tell…
First man: “So yesterday I realized I existed.”
Second man: “…And?”
First man: “That’s it.”
Second man: “Lame story, bro!”
First man: “Lame what now?”
Stories have always been around in some form or fashion. One of the most important bits of advice I can offer people who tell me they want to write a book is this: Tell a story. It doesn’t have to be an epic tome of grandeur, but make sure there’s a story to follow. Reach into the insanity that is the creative mind and pluck out a beginning, a middle, and an end, then craft them into a good plot. Look for some interesting characters or creatures. Create a world to set it in, whether it’s downtown New York, an alien planet, London in 1743, or a Middle Earth knockoff. Next, let your plot, characters, and world drive the story. Let go, and let the insanity take over. Write!
If you have a bunch of creative characters in a fascinating world, but no story, then your writing is going to be dull and boring. No one will want to read it because nothing is happening. The most interesting man in the world is still a boring person unless he’s doing something, or something is happening to him. Something needs to happen and the characters need to engage in the world that they live to experience the story they’re apart of.
A story is more than words on a page or screen. A story is an experience. Readers need to walk with you as you show the events that take place. They need to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it, and touch it. They need to bond with it, and feel like they’re going to walk away with something when they reach the last page.
To you, the writer, it’s insanity, especially the creating and writing part, but to the reader, it needs to be a story. Through the insanity, the story comes out. And let’s face it, the love of stories is why we enjoy writing in the first place.