I had the benefit of a wet, dreary winter ahead of me and endless nights of hockey on the heels of four sunny winters spent in Tucson and the Baja. I’m not much into hockey, which probably makes me a poor Canadian, but I’m also not the kind of person who gets bored so I’d been reading … a lot.
During that dreary winter, I thought about the books I enjoyed reading and how they were written. I started reading about the writers whose work I enjoyed and the writing process itself. For me, reading is an escape. I love books that wrap me up in their story so thoroughly that I lose track of my surroundings and all sense of time. If I was going to write, that’s the kind of writing I wanted to do.
I reread the books I enjoyed from a different perspective and realized they had something in common – they were written from just one person’s point of view. I can’t quite recall if it was that idea that fired me up, or reading Stephenie Meyer’s short bio on her website. She explained that her successful Twilight books sprung from a single scene that she dreamed about. Those two revelations were the catalyst for me to try my hand.
Could a dream, a kernel of an idea, an edge of a thought, be the seed of a captivating story? Maybe. I immediately thought of a recurring dream I’ve had since my childhood. It’s not an unusual or unique dream. (Many of the people who’ve read my first book tell me they’ve had similar dreams.) But was it enough for an interesting story? I didn’t know, but my curiosity was piqued enough to start exploring the idea.
All that winter I plunked away on my laptop. I fleshed out my tiny idea using the first person perspective. Writing from just one character’s point of view seemed the safest route for a novice writer. I dusted off my university Handbook for Writers, a five-pound Oxford dictionary and bookmarked a good on-line Thesaurus. As chapter after chapter came together, I convinced myself that not only could I do it, but that it was a captivating story.
When I finally garnered the courage to tell people what I’d been up to, I was pleasantly surprised. Supportive family and friends not only read my work, they also armed me with Strunk and White’s, The Elements of Style, Stephen Wilbers’ Keys to Great Writing and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel, to name just a few. But don’t let that fool you into thinking I’ve managed to incorporate all that collective wisdom. It is, however, a lofty goal.
I’m three books in now and still loving the process. There’s always something new to discover and no end of great books to learn from and read. I feel very lucky indeed to have found something so uplifting and interesting to do on dreary winter days. Of course, nowadays, every day I’m not writing is a dreary day…
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