Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's in a Word?

This past weekend, the National Post had a feature where they asked various authors what was the one word they would use to describe/characterize their work. Writer's being what they are, gave a single word but then offered an explanation for why they chose that word. Over the past few days, I have thought about what word characterized my writing.


I think it's because I write fantasy that justice prevails in my work or perhaps it's because real life is not fair and by writing, I create a place where right always conquers wrong. The first tales I ever told were classic 'fairy' stories where good triumphed over evil (and there were never any fairies!). I was twelve or thirteen and had seen that life was not always fair but felt it should be. I still believe that.

I could have easily said questing or journeying feature prominently in my books which they do but my characters are always searching for justice as they travel through their worlds. Tarr wishes to save his people from the slavery that is the Black Pirates and Geri must destroy the witch who is laying waste to his land. White Crane defeats a dragon who is bent on wiping out her people and Sarah must save a fantasy world from the ravages of a disease created by an evil overlord.

I also write mysteries. Solving a crime is to bring about justice. The evil in my mysteries isn't as black and white as it is in my fantasy because the children solving the crimes shouldn't know hardened criminals or face the reality of evil in the modern world. I believe they can bring about justice in their own way without reality's harshness. Sam chases her thief and finds her to be an unknown aunt bent on making a connection with Sam's family. Mercy finds the Crusader's Cross in the hands of a nurse who doesn't want her master to abandon his pregnant wife to fight in the Crusades. Neither 'bad guy' is truly bad and their crimes are minor but justice is brought to bear by my protagonists. They make a wrong a right.

I would like to think that this is also how I live in my real world, too.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Mostly Done!

I set myself the task of finishing the revision of White Crane before Christmas. I'm early but since I leave at the beginning of December, this is a good thing. And, of course, the work is not yet done. What began as simple revision to get the piece ready for publication became a complete rewrite. The great fun of new characters and new plot lines consumed me. I've done little else this past month and now must gently set it aside and let my characters rest.

The Christmas season begins and I must ready myself for the celebration. Gifts must be wrapped and cards sent. Friends and family who have suffered from lack of news over the past months become my focus. I have two weeks to prepare before I leave Calgary and much must be done between now and then.

However, in the pauses between parties and doctor's appointments, I may again slip into the ancient prairies that White Crane inhabits. She is an unusual girl with white hair and a desire to stay a child forever. Just as reality thrusts me into preparing supper, her reality pushes her to grow up. In the end, she faces a dragon and becomes a woman. It has been a delight to watch her grow but the time has come to take off my writing hat and put on the one of editing.

I must forget how wonderful it is just to write whatever happens to pop into my mind. When I'm inspired, dialogue flows, scenes come and go, and surprises happen. Characters become people with their own dreams and destinies. What I thought was the story that had to be told turns into something completely different. Minor characters want their say and major ones dictate what direction I should take. It is an exhilarating experience.

Then why does it ever have to end?

Well, life does intrude and the reality is you can't stay in your story's world forever. When in the throes of writing, you live and breathe your ideas, thinking of them when cooking, cleaning, or eating. You get lost in your thoughts as you hear dialogue or realize you must rewrite a scene because you've discovered a better way of telling it. Your family may or may not understand why you aren't quite 'there'. It's hard to tear yourself away from this world of your creation to deal with financial problems or relationship woes.

So, today, the book is complete. As it stands, it is only 58,000 words but I have learned that this is its bare bones. In the heat of writing, I see my characters and landscapes but never quite get all the description down. Readers forget who has a mole and who has blue eyes so I must remind them. This is what I do in my second draft. I stop and 'smell the roses'. I hear the wind in the fir trees, smell the crackling fire, see the pastel clouds of sunset, taste the sticky, sweet marshmallow, and poke the glowing embers. I check my passive verbs and silly adjectives. I cut out repetition and delve into my Thesaurus. I worry a sentence until it flows or cut it out completely. I say farewell to characters that don't fit or scenes that waste time. I have to believe words are not sacred because one word is always better than three.

Over the next few months, I'll mold this story into a manuscript then send it out into the world. I may even publish it on-line and save a few trees. Who knows? In the meantime, I'll enjoy Christmas in my real world knowing I can always return to the one I create.