Notes Of A Storyteller: Love Is Not A Victory March, And Neither Is Inspiration

When I started writing The Kingdom: The Quest, I was a teenager, and I had a teenage sort of imagination. What brought me to The Kingdom Trilogy was the scale of it. The plotlines in my head were impossibly huge, and they played in my head every day like fireworks. I had to put it on the page. So I did.

The day I started writing The Kingdom: The Quest, I made a great ceremony out of it. I had my family’s “study room” all to myself: a white-walled, wooden-floored cell packed with bookshelves and a table. There was a computer on that table, and I walked up to it with the gravity of a priest about to sacrifice a ram.

Remember that grandiose music from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring? It played in my head as I sat down and opened up Microsoft Word 2003. I paused to savor the moment. It was almost sacred. Then, almost of their own accord, my fingers fell to the keyboard and I began to write. I did it slowly, basking in the glow of my fantasies, and trying to sound as important as possible.

Want to know a secret? Three years later, I threw away every word I wrote that day, and in doing that I learned one of the most important things I know about writing.

There is neither romance nor glory in writing a novel until you finish it. Until then, you must roll your sleeves up. Write ravenously. Write whenever you can, however you can. Play lines in your head until you can find a napkin to scribble them down. Ceremony and self-importance will only slow you down. You can’t savor anything and risk losing another big thought.

Not until I moved towards that attitude did I begin to craft a real story. I started questioning my plot and my characters. Vertaen, one of Arman’s companions, went from a cliche gruff mentor to a charismatic bodyguard who is insufferably proud of his men. To make that change, I didn’t try to set the mood, or wait for the right inspirational moment to sweep me off my feet. I racked my brains about Vertaen’s character endlessly. I sweated, I grunted and I finally squeezed out something that I was happy with.

Dozens of writers have ranted about the day-to-day punishment of writing, and I’m not adding anything to that now. What I am saying is that they are not ignoring the beauty of writing by any means. In fact, they are being more respectful to it.

You don’t have to put yourself in the right moment to write something wonderful. In fact, if that’s your priority at all, you don’t understand writing. Just do it! You don’t take a deep breath before digging a ditch, do you? Of course not! You jab your shovel in and out of the ground until you have a neat, orderly ditch.

Writing demands the same kind of work. If you hold back anything trying to perfect your piece, you will regret it. You will see something in the final product that you know you could fixed. You’ll have a sentence you wish you had rearranged. A semi-colon where you could have put a period to make your words sound better. In these details, we learn who is a true writer and who is playing pretend.

Ponder that today.

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