Why do I like writing?
Some people I know say “I don’t like writing; I like having written.“
There, that’s done. Finished. I can see it on a screen, and if it’s a book or a magazine, I can hold it in my hands. See my name on the page. It’s a very satisfying thing.
But I also love the process of writing. When the words flow, it’s a fantastic feeling.
Which is why one of the feelings I hate the most is that frustration when I cannot think of something to write about, or cannot figure out how to begin something.
Fortunately, that’s not something that happens to me very often. I usually have so many ideas for new stories and books, the hard part is deciding which one to work on first.
Damming the stream
Writing a stream of words that comes as fast as my fingers can push the keys is a wonderful feeling of power. It’s very much like the feeling when I’m skiing, or when I’m successfully paddling a canoe down a whitewater rapids. But like skiing and whitewater canoeing, there are dangers under that white water (snow is white water).
Most of my books are set either in places far from me (like Hawaii or Hungary) or long, long ago (like World War II or the Dark Age). At the same time, I like to infuse my tales with a lot of realistic detail, so that the readers can immerse themselves into the story.
And that means, research, research, research.
Thank you, Google and Wikipedia.
And thanks to countless authors of books and articles on history, travel, geography and science (well, I guess I could count them, but that would only reinforce the next point I’m about to make, and I just don’t have the time or inclination right now) for your help in finding those obscure facts.
The downside is, research takes me away from writing the story. Often, it leads me down a long path (or side stream? Okay, I’ll rest the simile), when I get interested in something, which leads to something else—you know what it’s like.
Often, I can write hundreds of words in a few minutes. Then, I’ll come to a point where I need to check on something factual, and then I’ll spend hours looking up some tiny point.
Here’s an example: yesterday, I was working on Part 3 of The Triumph of the Sky, the follow-up to my 2012 historical fantasy, The Bones of the Earth. I was describing the hero traveling beyond the ancient borders of the Eastern Roman Empire (often called the Byzantine Empire), and I wondered: did the Romans of the early 7th century use stirrups?
That one wasn’t too hard to work out (they did), but it was a diversion. And there have been facts that literally took weeks or more of research to nail down—like the varieties of anti-tank guns used by the Soviets during the Second World War. It turns out, there was quite a range, and some of them looked positively fragile.
Finishing one run, re-starting another
Yes, I’m invoking the downhill skiing analogy again. At the beginning of the year, I finished the draft of book 1 of my new mystery, Wildfire. As I write this, the manuscript is in the digital hands of about 30 beta readers. Some have sent their responses, and I thank them all very much.
And as I promised, I’m using this interstitial time to work on Triumph. Well, not all of my time. I have other responsibilities, too. And there’s another writing project I’m working on, as well, that’s pretty exciting. I’ll tell you all about it when it gets closer to completion.
In the meantime, if you’re a writer, why not share how you fell about the writing-having written question.