“I should write a book about my life; it would be a bestseller.”
“Yeah, I’ve always thought about writing a book someday.”
So, what are you waiting for – do it.
If I had a penny for every time that I heard those words uttered since I’ve been a writer, I might be on easy street by now. Everyone thinks they can a write a book. In fact, writing is probably the only profession that is taken in such a nonchalant manner that just about every person with a high school education thinks they too have what it takes to write books. Any fellow authors reading this post know exactly what I’m talking about.
Perhaps it is because writing is an exercise in which we all participate daily. We’re writing through our schooling and further studies and scribbling on post-it notes at work. We’re scrolling our screens bursting with words and stroking our keyboards to pen a response. We’re jotting down last-minute grocery lists, helping our children with their writing homework, and maybe even pouring our hearts into a journal at the end of each day.
Naturally, you’re a writer. When I listen to a piece of music that moves me, I’m not inclined to believe that I could make music that will produce the same result. The same holds true when I hear the beautiful sounds of a vocalist or admire the brush strokes of a gifted artist. I don’t pretend I can design a kick-ass book cover just because I play around with graphics sometimes, or that I can fix the transmission in my car because I can drive.
My husband has no desire to write a book; and trust me when I say he has experienced a colorful life that could knock the socks off any great story premise. He is Dutch (do I need to add more?). He left Holland behind and set off alone on a global adventure in his late twenties with ideas to travel and see more of this side of the world. Europe was his well-worn backyard. The U.S didn’t appeal to him, and he loved all things creepy-crawly and poisonous. Coming Downunder was a no-brainer.
He lived in New Zealand for a year before landing a sponsorship visa in Australia, during which time he met me. Exciting notions to travel across Australia in his rather pimped-up campervan quickly fizzled after that – but not without a hefty side of soul-searching on his part. In the end though, I guess I proved too much to resist because he never did embark on that intended trip, nor did he return to his homeland. I may have altered his plans just a little, but he still doesn’t want to write a book. That old seedy campervan, however, could write some eyebrow-raising tales, I’m sure.
Ah, the European in my life.
The truth is, if writing a book was as easy as most of the population believes, then writing a book would be pretty ordinary and all those folks wouldn’t just be shooting off at the mouth, they’d be too busy writing that damned book. But writing a book is anything but ordinary. Authors are anything but ordinary for that matter. I always thought I was a little peculiar… until I met other authors. Then, peculiar took on a whole new meaning.
It takes a particular type of person to not only write a book, but to persist at writing books. They are a legion of people belonging to an idiosyncratic faction obsessed with storytelling. We are slaves to the written word; vessels of passion striving to convey our message through story; and craving to uplift and transport our readers to other worlds. We are the individuals that function between long bouts of solitary hours living in our heads and real life.
Writing and publishing books is no easy task. I won’t lie. It requires fire, passion and faith. When asked, I tell people that it takes a lot of self-discipline, a truck load of tenacity, the uncanny ability to cultivate self-belief, and a hot, burning desire to improve on your craft. In short, persistence is a fitting word here.
Thinking back, my journey into writing began with Golden Book fairytales. I’d devour them over and over as a child and dream myself into the pages of mystical worlds. Stories enthralled me from a young age. When I was about fifteen-years-old, I sat down and began writing my first chapter by hand – a fast-paced take on a trashy Jackie Collins novel. The story lasted two entire pages until I realized there was a lot more to writing a book than what I had imagined. It was then that I could really appreciate the process authors go through in not only producing a book, but creating a captivating story that lasted for more than two pages.
It would be a very long time before I arrived at the moment that I sat before a blank screen and began to write my first book, Millie’s Angel. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing at the time. All I knew was that I had to write, and that somehow, I could do this – I could write more than two pages of a book, and I could make it as great a story as I could at the time. More than that, I had to do it for myself. At the time I had reached a pivotal moment in my life. For some reason I knew that I had to embark on a journey that would forever change my life-path.
For every writer there is an underlying urge to tell a story. It’s like an invisible haul on your subconscious mind that you don’t realize is there until you quieten your thoughts, sit with the feeling and listen – and then you do and something else begins to happen. Suddenly, you’re writing the words and your entire being rejoices in a delicious explosion of delight and wonder. Tiny, zealous tingles burst through your body, bringing you to a place of knowing and confirming that now is the moment you had been awaited – you are a storyteller.
The feeling is unmistakable, and one that cannot ever be denied thereafter. My writing has changed a lot since I wrote Millie’s Angel. These days, I have a better understanding of the industry. My writing voice is stronger and unique to me. I know what I want from my characters and stories, and I am my harshest critic.
I have learned more about storytelling, genre tropes and reader expectations, and strive daily to deliver my best work to the page. For me and my stories it’s about my characters. I want to take readers on a journey through the choices my characters make; to introduce them to their innermost thoughts and feelings as the story unfolds and propels them into a fictitious world driven on the edge of reality.
Recently, I was one of the hosting authors on a panel for the Sydney Writer’s Festival. One woman asked how it was possible to create a “real” character in a fantasy world. Since I was the sole speculative fiction author among our panel and currently working on an epic futuristic world governed by vampires, her question was directed at me. I told her that when you bring layers and depth to your characters, and provide profound moments between them throughout the story, it is easy to interject traits and circumstances that feel real, even when they’re facing an oppressing life beneath a group of psychotic undead individuals!
Becoming my characters means my readers can relate to them. By injecting truth in my words, I can find and maintain my overarching story theme, which always encompasses a profound message I wish to bring to the story. This is who I am, and this is ultimately why I am a writer; it is my way of bringing something good into the world; a sense of hope and love through the words and worlds I create and the stories I tell. The world can never fall short on too much love. I write stories not because I think I should, or because one day I thought it was something cool that I could do. It takes a whole lot more than a passing pipedream to be a writer.
I write stories because without story I am nothing. I am a storyteller despite the tribulations that often accompany the life of a writer. The embers persevere and burn strong in my belly. Every day the fire and passion scorch my veins, and it’s never-ending and strong.