I was reading around the blogs, as one does on WordPress, and came across an interesting post. The author noted that they found fiction to be nearly impossible for them to write, despite loving to write. So they tended towards non-fiction, but still really wanted to learn to write fiction.
I’m by no means a veteran author. No, I only started my first book eight months ago, but I spend around four-twelve hours a day writing (depending on how much I can get away with while attending University full time). The part that comes easily to me is fiction and this person was asking for advice, so I wrote:
“It seems you’re approaching it deliberately. That only really works when you have a full outline…Patterson style (this works, but it also takes some of the fun away).
For me, a book starts with an idea, a singular scene or defining moment that makes everything else fall into place. Once the characters and setting have a bit of weight, they tend to write themselves. The hardest part of a snowman is the base, but once it’s big enough, you just push it gently and it grows.
All my books started as a short story. The hard part is finding the players and arranging them in a way that makes sense and is believable. After that, they make themselves interesting by being who they are. Just light the fire and blow a little oxygen (because we need more metaphors in this comment, don’t we?)
I hope that helps a little. I know it’s vague and wordy, but fiction is a much more fluid process than nonfiction, it’s less about the details and the authenticity at first and more about the big picture. You have time to fill in the details as you go and when you’re editing. Kind of like sculpting versus photography, if that makes sense. You’re go for the rough shape of it first, each chapter needs to have an overarching point or purpose, but that can mean a lot of things.
Anyway, love the post. Honest, funny, and interesting. Keep it up!”
I hadn’t really thought about how it worked before then, and it was kind of weird to read that back. I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘so that’s what I’ve been doing?’
But that’s all it takes. If you can write an engaging and open ended short story (this isn’t necessarily easy but everyone has it in them), by all means, let it snowball into a novel. It can seem imposing when you think about it like that, but make each chapter another short story, just build off of what you have. The longer it gets the more natural it feels. And it is engaging. Beautifully engaging. It’s the reason I’ve come to love doing this…it’s like a drug for me (since I don’t drink I need one of those :P).
That feeling when you get lost in a story? You get that by default, except it’s so much more because it’s your story. You are the characters. You feel what they feel and it’s a unique sort of empathy. It’s never about word count or aiming for a certain length, or worrying if your stylistic innovations are even publishable. These things matter, but it’s just gonna make it seem imposing again. Just let it become what it is, mold it like you’d mold a part, sculpt a drawing. Let the other bits come naturally and adjust accordingly. It’s a lot easier to do that kind of thing when you already have a working manuscript. It’s your art.
In that regard, I feel my experience with traditional art has really helped me approach story writing in a way that makes sense to me. In art you plan, but that archetype needs to be fluid, otherwise you’ll fail or worse, miss opportunities to make it better (there’s nothing quite like improving upon that image you had in your head). Writings the same way. Start with that rough sketch, shade a little, find the shadows and plan for the highlights because light only matters next to darkness. Books are that way too…you want contrast, you want a roller-coaster to make someone feel. To make yourself feel. I write what I want to read and write what I find to be engaging and natural and that’s all there really is to it. Genre is a post production label, too. Try not to think about it when you’re getting started. That gave me some grief early on.
The only other major tip I have is, don’t force it. If you’re not feeling it, and it isn’t fun or engaging at that moment, that’s probably a sign it isn’t necessarily where you should take it. Trust your own emotions and only write when you want to. I write a lot, but it’s still only when I want to. I don’t usually plan or think about the story that much when I’m actually writing. I do that when I fall asleep and throughout the day, I just sketch little notes or ideas on my notepad app. Immersing yourself in the story and living it a little before deciding on a path can really yield some awesome plot twists and depth you could never achieve in one sitting.
There are likely hundreds of different processes that are different then or even better than what I do, but it’s worked for me, and I never once had to really think about it. Once you get going, you’ll find your own little tricks that make everything easier.
Anyway, I hope someone finds this useful and maybe reconsiders giving fiction a go. I promise it’s worth it.