Since I’ve gotten better at networking, I’ve connected with all sorts of individuals within the gaming industry. Most of them have either been on the art or technical sides development, as writers are fewer and far between (or, unreachable deities to my unworthy eyes). One of the first questions they ask in casual conversation is how I have the patience to sit down and write, why I write, whether op-ed or longer fiction. I’ve gotten this a lot recently, especially after someone catches a glimpse of my beaten up, chop-full moleskine that can often be found sticking out of my purse; but it is by far one of the hardest questions to answer as a creative, but one that I haven’t thought about in a long while. It may be tad dramatic, but I often rebuttal with why do you breathe?
Most of them get the point.
I’ve been a writer for a very long time, legitimacy arguable. I’ve talked before about why I want to write for video games back when I discussed Nintendo’s introduction of Breath of the Wild at this year’s E3, but my love for writing precursors my love for Link. When I was extremely young, I wrote “precious,” dark poems about my stuffed animals. As it does for many, that love started manifesting more thoroughly as impromptu fanfiction. I distinctly remember my friend Elizabeth and I exchanging very elaborate emails in which we wrote long stories about the scandalous lives of Naruto and Sasuke (nothing embarrassing…that I remember). Before that, my childhood best friend Haley and I wrote even more elaborate stories about characters from a Japanese anime called Hamtaro, and the infamous Sailor Moon. Heck, even my Neopets had backstories.
Come high school, everything started ramping up and getting more passionate. I ditched fanfiction and opted for more original work. The summer in between my freshmen and sophomore years was spent reading a lot, like, a book every other day a lot. Kristin Cashore, the retackling of Tolkien (and essays by), classic Stephen King; I stayed up all night reading and slept during the day. It was that summer that I sat down and decided, “alright, I can do this,” and I haven’t stopped since.
I try to write a little bit of everything, but I’ve always gravitated towards fantasy and horror. This is particularly true of my larger projects, as the current piece that I’ve been building is a massive high fantasy of a multi book scale (but I’ll get back to that later).
The next question that I’m often asked, usually by people who are trying to start writing themselves, is how to write (rather, how to get into writing). Which is another very difficult question to answer. It takes a whole ton of patience, and a lot of time. I always have at least one notebook with me, or if I’m in a situation where I can’t physically take notes or write with pen and paper, I rely heavily on my iPhone’s Notes app. No matter what I’m doing, I’m probably also writing. I pause the television, stop games, and put down books to takes notes. When an idea hits, I will scramble at whatever cost to write it down. This does not only pertain to fantasy or very fictiony fiction, as I’m also incredibly perceptive of my surroundings:
Blonde Ponytail mows his lawn every Saturday at two. Not today; instead of lawn care, he has retreated into the massive Victorian house and is playing Beethoven’s 2nd with a worn violin. A record plays along in the background. He is still wearing a wife-beater and sweat still beads under his arms. I can smell it from the sidewalk.
The old women on the corner of 3rd gave me a bushel of lilac from her garden. “To scare away the foxes, my dear!” she yelled as I strut away.
Her father was laid off, her baby daddy’s car was repossessed, and her mother almost died of heart failure during her lunch break. Grandma is kicking them all off the property, because she wants sell the house so that she can move to El Paso before Christmas. —shit, she also needs to pick up the baby from daycare (which closes permanently on Friday, because the GM was arrested for selling pot and shoving a kid).
And those are just a few examples. Some of the best material comes from reality. You may accidentally overhear little blip of a stranger’s conversation that is so out of context, so ridiculous, that you can’t help up jot it down and fill in the blanks later. You never know when those blips will come in handy, what you can turn into a story (irregardless of genre).
I also write a lot of freestyle, especially when I’m working on anecdotal or more personal work (realism). That requires a little more time to be set aside to focus entirely on writing. Usually, I’ll force myself to find a quiet space, disconnect from the internet — hide my damn phone. Then, I write! Write write write. I don’t let myself stop, even if it’s total slop. Sometimes the best way to get content down is to go nonstop until something good figures itself out. This is by far one of the harder practices to master, or even get into, but can be extremely effective at any stage of discipline.
My fantasy work is the most methodical in practice. Getting started is the hardest part, and I have no good advice on that. My stories come to me at random: when I’m running, listening to music (movie & game scores, classical), eating, sleeping, in the shower, cooking… I could be doing nothing, and something will hit me. Sometimes those ideas manifest as a concept, sometimes I’ll picture a character and the world will form around her later. There’s no telling when the concept will hit, but once it does, I lunge. I’ll start researching anything that can be realistically researched in a modern world (minerals, linguistics, geography, chemistry, whatever is necessary). I’ll take bundles of notes, usually on legal pads that are organized by subject. Then, I’ll move away from reality and get to know the world of the story. It varies where I’ll begin, whether I focus on the characters or the universe. Irregardless, I ask questions: what food do the people eat? What are their clothes made of, who makes them? What are the temperatures of the natural water sources? And I keep asking these questions throughout every stage of a piece, until I can answer every single one.
Once I’ve gotten to know that world enough, and the people who inhabit it, I start to write.
I’m currently writing a multi book series (dream big) about a white eyed sorceress with hair that looks of burnt ash. I’m just now segwaying from the research stage into world building. It started with a concept, rather than a character. I first came up with the premise last summer while I was jogging around Mount Vernon, Iowa. It was nearly 100 degrees, and I was blasting Two Steps From Hell. I pictured a world far different, and one that was hopefully colder, than the one I was in. At first it was glossy and filled with wild technologies — at first, I pictured it as being of science fiction. But as I got to know this world better, I found it to be far more bitter, and much more harsh. It eventually turned into fantasy when I pictured a black marble city. Bits and pieces, cities and islands, creatures, then small colonies of shapeshifters, and multiple wars. Over one year, it has come to me in chunks, and over the past two months, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. When I’m not working, applying for jobs, or preforming the basic actions of a functional human being, I’m living out my characters in this new world. But, I’ll leave the rest a little covert.
To a writer, writing is like breathing. It just happens, and it’s absolutely necessary. Sometimes you’ll see a moment, you’ll get a scene. Sometimes, all you get is an object. So long as you write what you can and write it often.
As a fine man once told me (hi, dad), “WRITE WRITE WRITE, DAMN IT!”