I was talking with a friend of mine at church last weekend. He’s an aspiring writer with the same dilemma: to finish a book. Ideas weave in and out of his mind, and yet he hasn’t written a novel. I love the coincidences in life because, for the first time in my career, I almost fell into the same whirlpool that prohibited him.
Let’s say you are an aspiring writer (if so than YEAH!). Then, most people, like me, will tell you to go to conferences and read books on the craft. We do this with the belief that you will learn the most from other writers. This is absolutely true. But, you will go to these conferences and you will meet hundreds of people who will have their “fool proof” method for writing a breakout hit. They will talk of procedures, characters, story plots (all of which stop my creativity dead). But, before you can focus on all this, they will tell you to do your research. You see, you will sound silly if you don’t know what you are talking about.
In the fantasy genre, I don’t have this pressure as much as let’s say murder mystery. I recently went to a local Sisters In Crime meeting (long story) in which a forensic expert discussed how a bullet will actually stop upon hitting water. So all those spy movies where the hero gets injured by a bullet passing through the water…yeah, the woman giggled at the idea. So, as an author you need to be prepared. They will tell you that you need to know your genre’s trends and styles. Everyone will agree that a fantasy book doesn’t read like a romance and a romance doesn’t read like a who-done-it. They will recommend books on craft and don’t forget the research!
There is nothing wrong with this advice. In fact, I have offered it to writers. But, what did I tell my friend? Just write! I got stuck in this drama within my own head last week. I wanted to research life on a frigate to enhance my scenes. I then thought of all the other things I should research as well. Finally, I asked myself. What is driving my story: the research or the characters? For me, the answer has always been characters. So, I wrote the prologue. And, you know what, ideas started to click and flow. Will I need to research more before I’m done? Probably, but now it will be necessary.
I recommend the same thing to those learning the craft of storytelling. How are you going to learn if not by examining your own work? Authors can sell millions of books telling you how best to write, but you need to find your own style. Find it and strengthen it with the advice from these books. Don’t let them tell you how to do your style, only how to improve it. So just jump in! The water’s nice in the pool of creativity.