Recently I've been contemplating my hectic life. I try and balance between Programming, Writing, and just being a good husband and father. It's not easy. But, when each day is done, it's all worth it. Writing, is new to me. Well, not really. Fiction writing is new to me. I've been in the high tech field for 26 years now with various roles. Writing has always been a part of that. I even had an article about computer security published in magazine back in 1999. I've just never, until recently, had the good fortune (or good sense) to do what I've always wanted to do, namely write books. Good, old fashioned, fiction!
Today, I did some catchup reading K.M. Weiland's writing blog. If you don't know who she is and you're a writer, you had better catch up. She has one of the clearest voices out there on writing advice. She also has a good choice of guest bloggers, which adds to the spice. One of her most recent articles was a great one for me, "The Good News? Writing Never Gets Any Easier". I recommend you read it. It really is good news. After so many years in technology, I can say that it is the challenge that makes it worthwhile.
As I relax into the rhythm of a writing lifestyle, I am constantly reminded of the joy of the struggle. I've even had arguments with my main characters. Recently, while working on a specific scene in my second book, one of the minor characters actually made me cry. Twice. No, not a little tear. I actually cried. OK, that may sound a little weird if you aren't a writer, but characters really do seem to come to life. There are surprises around every corner. The characters you think you know will spontaneously do something you never would have expected. Several times, I've had to stop writing after some harrowing literary encounter, heroic action, our touching conversation just to figure out what just happened. Writing is as entertaining as watching a good movie or reading someone else's good book.
It's not always a fun experience, though. Sometimes the story just stops and I have to examine why nothing is appearing on the blank computer screen in front of me. Usually, it's that I failed to outline enough. Sometimes it's that I really hate the corner I just painted myself into. That's the struggle. It's not new to me, though. It's a lot like programming computers. You think you know where you are going, but suddenly, you are stuck. On a typical programming stint, I end up throwing away a good 20% of my work. It comes with the territory. Writing, it turns out is no different. This is where my computer background has helped me. I really love the work that I've done. Sometimes, though, It's just a distraction. Sometimes, It will sink your book. If you can't cut out the cruft you will end up going mad, or, at least, writing an unreadable book.
The cruft is not always junk, though. During my first book, which I'm still writing, by the way, I got distracted on a side character. She's a charming twelve year old girl with a lot of spunk and a lot to give. Unfortunately, she just didn't fit into the first book. Sooo.... "Viola Ethel" I have a second book! When I just couldn't throw out the side story, I looked at it from a different perspective.
I asked myself, "Self, does she have enough spunk to carry her own story?"
Self replied, "Sure does, Self."
Then I asked, "Well then, Self, can we put together a convincing hook and climax? Can we make the story arc compelling enough to keep the reader from putting it down?"
"Absolutely," Self replied.
So Jessica's story was born. So a distraction has become a story unto itself.
This sort of thing is why I write. This is why I am excited about the struggle as much as I am about getting a book out there and read. As a way of life, I love writing. The benefits are innumerable. The rewards are both immediate and long term. I wouldn't trade this life for anything.