Friday, 28 June 2013

Can you hold a spark? – Balancing inspiration and work

Last week I guest posted about the influence of Montreal on my writing on Scott Bury's blog Written Words.  This week, ATUA is lucky to host Scott for a great guest post.  Thank you, Scott!

Next time you’re on a plane or train, ask the person next to you if they’ve ever had an idea that would make a great movie. Chances are, you’ll be in for a long conversation. Everyone has ideas for great stories, or at least, the beginnings of great stories: a gymnast who solves mysteries, or how their parents met — life is always sparking inspirations for creative people.

The difference between the daydreamer and the novelist lies not in coming up with ideas, but figuring out the ends of those stories, and then putting in the hours and months of hard labour to get from beginning to end.
Right now, I have five stories in various stages of development — and by that I mean, I have worked for months or years on them, and I will need to put in more months on each before they’re finished.

On top of those, I have a whole bunch of other ideas for books. Readers have asked for a sequel to The Bones of the Earth. I have an idea for a serial-killer story  with a twist; a love story about a girl with amnesia; a novel about a crime war in a coastal town; a novel about a naive boy who marries the worst person in the world; a novel about politically active young people ... oh, yes, my writing guide for non-writers ...

The beginning is not everything

I keep thinking of great opening lines for stories: 

  • Sunrise purpled the sky over the harbour.
  • She wasn’t pretty, not by a long shot.
  • The last thing William heard Dr. Daswani say before the rumble drowned out his voice was “Don’t!”

The hard work lies in seeing where the story goes from that beginning to a logical, interesting and satisfying end. 

It also takes a lot of time: planning, research, revising the plan, writing the story down, revising it, revising it again, cleaning up the messy grammar, removing all those phrases that sounded so cute at first, sending the clean manuscript to reviewers and editors and proofreaders.The book I wrote the fastest was One Shade of Red. I got the idea last fall and decided to make it my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) entry. I wrote about 60,000 words during November 2012, finished the first draft by December 10, revised it by mid-January, sent it to editors through January and February and finally published it on April 2, 2013.

Notice that in that span was a little time-consuming event called Christmas. There’s also a day job, a family that wants some of my attention occasionally.

Inspiration is wonderful. A creative spark can produce pages and chapters of terrific prose, but it’s not enough to take you to the end of a novel. There are just too many hours, too many dark nights when the coffee runs out. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was so inspired he turned his car around on the way to a family vacation in Acapulco, but finishing One Hundred Years of Solitudetook him 18 months.

Writing is work. A writer who finishes and publishes books is one who has learned how to balance inspiration and concentration — how to hold onto that creative spark to the end of the story.

Scott Bury is an author, editor and journalist who lives in Ottawa with his wife, two mighty sons, a huge orange cat and a very pesky kitten. He is the author of The Bones of the Earth, Dark Clouds and One Shade of Red. You can read samples of all these works and his other writings and musings on his blog, Written Words, and follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.


Post a Comment