Thursday, February 17, 2011

Questions... (part 1)

The question I'm  most frequently asked is, "Why did you write a book?" This question is especially popular from the kids I read to. Occasionally, the question actually comes out the way I think most of them mean it, "Why do you write?" If you put this in the context of coming from kids who think of writing as something they have to do for assignments and whatnot, it makes sense. There is a certain amount of disbelief from them that anyone would sit down and write anything willingly, much less a whole book. The answers to these two questions aren't the same, but, perhaps, the answer to the first will help lead to the answer to the second.

"Why did I write a book?" or, more specifically, "Why did I write this book, The House on the Corner?" As I've mentioned, I've sort of always had an urge to write. My first attempt at a book was while I was still in the single digits and was supposed to be a Hardy Boys style mystery (yes, I will still get back to that, later). Through the years, there have been many more starts and notes and plans but no completion. Not even any real progress (at this point, I don't call 25 pages progress; that's just a start). But I had (have) stories I wanted to tell. How could I do that?

First, I had to figure out what the problem was. Makes sense, right? So what was the problem? Mostly, it was a lack of discipline. Writing, like most anything, takes practice. Even when you're good at it. But novel writing takes specific practice. Like running a marathon. It's not enough to just be a fast runner, you have to train yourself to keep going. And going. And when you feel like you can't go anymore, you have to be able to keep going. Sitting down and writing something is relatively easy, but, when you have to sit down and continue writing that same thing, day after day, even when you don't feel like writing that particular thing or writing at all, well, that takes practice. Essentially, it is very much like getting up and going to work and doing your job no matter how you're feeling about it on a given day. And, you know, not getting paid for it. See, that's the thing, when you're first starting out, there is absolutely no reward for doing it and a lot of stress, heartache, and hardship involved. How do you persist through that?

I needed a trick. Something to keep me motivated and moving on my project. Something to take me past the doubts and the... well, just the sheer scale of what it was I wanted to do. Obviously, none of my previous projects were going to cut it, so what could I do? I decided I needed two things: 1. a topic I knew well and 2. accountability. And, thus, we arrive at The House on the Corner.

I've spent a lot of my life, most of it, in fact, working with kids and teens. And I have three kids of my own, so I wasn't likely to find anything I knew better. All right, so I'm going to write about kids in some fashion, but what will keep me accountable to keep doing it when I don't want to? That was when I was struck by the Tolkein inspiration: I'd write a story that could serve as a bedtime story for my kids and read it to them as I went along. Once begun, that wasn't going to be something that I was going to be able to get out of. I'm not sure if there is anything more persistent than a child trying to get something s/he wants, so I wasn't going to be able to just abandon it part way through and go back to the way things were. In fact, having written this first one, no matter what else I may end up writing, I have a feeling I'm going to be writing this series for the rest of my life.

So, really, the whole point of this first novel was to help me develop the habits that I need to be able to write the things I really want to write about. The super, secret things that are squirming around in my head and trying to get out. Shh... some of them are really cool. But that all leads back to the other question, why write at all?
Do I have you hooked? Because that's a question for another blog. >insert evil laugh here<
See you next time! Same Bat channel...

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