Oh, um. Well, hmmm. Gee. (Probably not like that.)
My ten-year old looked expectantly at me from across our great room, his forehead wrinkled with an oft-worn frown of deep thought. His fingers were poised over the small keyboard of our “baby” laptop on the boys’ homework desk.
Ever since I started writing this middle grades fiction story in early fall – an idea dropped into my imagination by him one day after our boys played a Lego game – Cole has joined me on this book-writing journey. His story, Joe Sanders, is an action-thriller-mystery currently numbering around 3k.
We mutually decided that we’ll wait until the two stories are complete before exchanging pages. I’m just days away from finishing, although I’m not telling him. I’m planning to surprise him with the edited, printed out version soon.
Cole’s enthusiasm in writing his own story and learning about writing has been fun and challenging. He poses questions simple in nature yet foundational for success with writing and in creating great stories.
“How do you write when you don’t feel like it?”
~ Ouch. Gulp. That’s a painful one because it’s a constant battle for me. Sometimes I’m all over my laptop like a bad rash; other days I’m wiping down baseboards to avoid staring at a blinking cursor. Often the days are just too race-track-busy to write much. <excuses, excuses=””>
Because adults know from plain ol’ life – when we commit to something, we need to follow through. We don’t always (or often) feel like doing many of the things we’re obligated to do in our lives…dishes, laundry, exercise, bathe our children, clean the kitchen, yard work, day job work, being nice to others…the list goes on and on and on (similar to laundry).
So I was honest when I answered his question. “I don’t always feel like writing, and the result is I waste time doing other things when I should be writing (^^Guilty glance at Facebook^^). I explained that writers have to put their rear in the chair and do it (–>pointing at myself).
Words can’t become stories by themselves. They need you to shape them into a story like a canvas needs a painter to bring the colors together to create art, I explained.
I remember reading somewhere that Dean Koontz has a separate computer for writing with no internet. Smart cookie, that one.
“Should I kill off a character?”
~ I’m currently working through a scene with a death in it, and it’s tough. Hurts. Makes me feel heart-deep pain for the characters and sadness for the life gone. But that’s when we know that as writers, we’ve put real life into the characters we’ve created on the page.
Don’t kill off characters just to do it; if it helps move the plot along, I told him, then consider ending a fictional life.
“When do I know my story is long enough?”
~ I explained the word count by genre deal, gently reminding him that he doesn’t need to shoot for 30k at this point in his life (though he’s welcome to). Tell the best story you can, then go back and edit to make it even better.
While it’s always advantageous to be aware of word counts, I find that my best writing occurs when I’m not in word count mode but instead deep in my story’s heart, interacting with the characters and giving them problems to solve.
Problems? Oh yes, problems.
“Should the bad guy win?”
~ Uh oh. Trouble. That age-old conflict question. Good vs. evil. Bad guy vs. good guy. Protagonist vs. internal/external conflict stopping him/her from getting what he/she wants. Bring on the conflict! Problems are inherent in life and absolutely necessary in fiction. I’ve had to focus on that one especially. Conflict on every page to keep the reader turning the page.
“Is it bad that I hunt and peck?”
~ I suppressed a giggle at this adorable question. Cole lamented the fact that he can’t type as fast as I can. I explained that it takes time and practice to type zippy-fast like I do (and really, I don’t type that fast.) I have twenty-plus years of typing on him.
(On that note, if only we had this option:)
A little creepy, right? But efficient, I’d say.
Ultimately I told him to write the story that’s bursting out of him and don’t sweat all the details (he’s ten, for goodness sake). Because over the past few years, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading author interviews and learning what drives other writers on their writing journeys. Finding out where their stories come from, their struggles and successes, what roadblocks they’ve climbed over to pursue publishing.
Writers have this commonality of characters in our head that won’t go away; stories that claw their way out of our soul to be told and shared; and for Christian writers, a deep desire to honor our Creator with words that point back to Jesus, the Author of life.
If you’re hunting and pecking like my ten-year old – keep at it! If you’re midway through the journey like me – dig in and push through (and keep that rear in the chair). If you’re a published author crafting stories on a tight, stressful deadline, with editors and eager readers breathing down your neck – you can do it! Your words, your stories matter.
You’re writing the right way.