Not a usual topic perhaps for a site on book-writing and all that comes with it. Still there is a reason for this article, because an environment is important.
For instance, can you imagine a series of desks and hard-working people in the image on the left? For most people it’s probably the wrong environment to even consider that.
This is a place where you’d ride kangaroos, takes long walks, sit down with a picnic basket and some nice people, and spend some fun times saving your food from ants and other creepy crawlies.
It’s also a place where I can see a writer sit or walk, doing what writers do best when they’re not writing: thinking, planning, dreaming, staring.
A place where inspiration hangs in the air, from the trees, and makes its way on the ground through the dust. Yes, there are more creepy crawlies there and they too can be an inspiration for a story.
For these reasons and many more it’s important to keep our environment clean and healthy. Not only for us, but also for the generations who come after us. The picnic basket bearers, the walkers, joggers, the lovers who want to lie in the grass, and the dreamers who want to gain inspiration and a wonderful plot for the story they’re envisioning for us.
I really wondered what to write about for this letter, the letter ‘K’. It’s interesting for me, not being a native English speaker, that there are so many words in the English language but the number of them that start with ‘K’ is relatively small (at least that is how it seems to me). Of course, there are words like Kindergarten, Knife and Komodo dragon but those don’t really sound like something worthwhile to blog about in this A-Z challenge. I’m after all a writer, I do things with words and books, not with kindergartens. The Dutch language (my native tongue) has many words starting with ‘K’. One of the products the Netherlands is famous for, cheese, starts with ‘K’ in Dutch: kaas. (You can pronounce it when you say ‘cast’ -with the a as in bar- and then drop the ‘t’. There, you learnt a Dutch word!)
Many English words starting with ‘C’ have a Dutch counterpart starting with ‘K’, like canon (kanon) or card (kaart). Incidentally also many German words share this trait (Kanone, Karte).
Hmm. Maybe I should write about Kings. Kings are interesting creatures. Perhaps next time.
I have not gone mad. At least I think I didn’t. Of course, trying to decide on that from inside a mad state would be rather mad, don’t you agree? I’ve not started writing about madness either, although the previous part might be proof to the contrary.
I’m talking about the madness that can come up from around writing. The madness I am now experiencing comes from the occasional bout of wonder if I will ever be able to do everything I’m working on now. (I’m not even looking at what’s in store in the future!)
As I am writing “Hilda 13” and a new story which I’ll code-name LAD (it’s going to be a paranormal funny) I’m putting the last 15 chapters of the Sandy/Bristol story in the e-book file. Also I’m doing the last reread of the Dutch Sebastian/Hero story before I dare send it off to a publisher. After that (or perhaps during that) I plan on going over the English Sebastian/Hero version to keep my editor busy, who by then will have sent back the novel of Lily Marin to keep me busy. And when that’s all done – or maybe not – there’s the story about Clara’s Eyes that I wrote during last year’s Nanowrimo, which is waiting for a good look-over and partly rewrite.
All that may mean that I’m not writing as much as I could or should, but the stories that are written need that bit of spit-and-polish to make them suitable for all you people who will hopefully enjoy them.
It goes without saying that you enjoy the books you read. Why else would you read them? Perhaps I should exclude text books here, those don’t necessarily contain entertaining material, and I speak (or rather: write) from experience.
Something that dawned on me a while ago however is: maybe a writer enjoys writing a book even more than a reader reading a book. Don’t get me wrong, writing can be a frustrating experience when these pesky characters decide to do things their way, but for a writer (like me) who doesn’t plan every moment in a story before writing it, there are so many surprises hidden in a story.
The writer often takes the lead for the characters in the book (that is how it feels to me anyway). The writer opens a door – or leaves it closed. Do the characters go left (and what lies hidden there?) or do they go right (where the same question applies)? Does the antagonist maintain his or her evil demeanour or does he/she suddenly show a human trait? (Or a trait that’s at least considered gentle among their species?)
A lot of time spent writing a book can vanish into this kind of musing. Exploring all the possibilities where a story could go, and then boldly rush in to see what’s hiding inside the nooks and crannies of a building, a cave or in the mind of a character. Of course, going about a story this way may mean that a lot of time is spent on the ‘what-ifs’ coming from a specific situation, but as a writer you get to explore all of those, dismiss many of them and find the one that (hopefully) will suit the story best.
It’s a bit like exploring alternate time-lines, deciding, like a little god, where the story moves to, and finally making everything come together (or fall apart) in the best way.
In my previous post I went on and on about the privilege of a writer probably having more fun creating a book than the reader has with the finished product.
There is of course a ‘dark’ side to this. Dark is perhaps the wrong word for it, but there are moments in creating a story that can take a bigger toll on a writer than other moments. As usual, this isn’t applicable to every writer but I have heard from many others that they go through the same (e)motions. And that is what I am referring to. Emotions.
It’s probably different from one person to the other, but for me, writing an emotional scene is very draining. Not because it’s boring to write, far from that: emotional scenes are the most fascinating ones to do. The moment that you tap into the core, the heart and soul of a character is when the character really comes alive. It’s also the moment where the reader gets to know who is inside that person on the pages. For the writer however this can become hard work. Often it’s not just one character who becomes emotional, but two, three, or even more. As the person who created all these characters, the writer is responsible for the sum of their emotions but also for each character’s personal experience of them. It’s one thing to write that someone cries, but when you want to make it clear what causes that crying, when you go inside that person and ‘live through the pain’… that is where the emotional drain appears. When something like that comes into the story, I /am/ that character. I feel her or his pains and sorrows, yet I have to keep a distance to write it all down. And then the pain can continue in another character, who experiences it in another way – and then the living through it starts again. A fellow writer told me about that: “If you leave something of yourself on a page, you wrote it well.” In that light I can proudly say that I leave plenty of myself on such pages.
Another odd emotional drain can happen when finishing a story, especially one that took a long time to write, where lots of emotion has gone into. Imagine living intimately with a few people, being inside their heads for a year or more, having all kinds of adventures with them. They tend to become a part of you that way. And then there are these two simple words “The End”. They don’t just mean that the story’s over to me. They mean an end to that time of intimately living together with a bunch of people, characters that didn’t exist before you invented them, but who’ve become a part of you through their trials and tribulations that you put them through. It’s odd that you don’t just see them suffer – you suffer with them. There’s a strong bond with them. And then they’re gone, usually living happily ever after. And the writer is left with “The End.” It can hurt. But it’s a good hurt, a sign that you did something right. When there’s no feeling in a story, it’s not a good story I would almost say. It’s strange, it’s pain, but I say: let it come. It’s a pain that shows that my heart went into it.
The last 10 days flew by. I was away on a vacation, one that was desperately called for. Life is busy and hectic, we probably all know that, so I sought an escape to Fuerteventura. That is perhaps the most uninhabited of the Canary Islands (off the coast of West Africa, with Morocco almost in spitting distance. (Okay, not really that.)
It was wonderful there, sunshine, nice people, great food, and lots of doing almost nothing at all for the first three days. Only sleep and bask in the sunshine doing nothing but warm up, get a tan and read a lot. And I asked the lady in the kitchen to marry me, because she’s amazing with food. She had a few conditions though, and one of them was that I move to the island. Alas, I don’t see that happening quite yet.
But I am back, refreshed and a bit tired from the trip. There is some good news in the works!
You may be part of plenty of groups on various forums where writers come together to discuss books, writing, technique, options, possibilities and other things that are part of the book-writing business. And not only the writing is part of books, also the part where they need to be brought to attention and sold are often matters of discussion on these forums. All that I understand very very well.
What I still can’t fathom however is, that many a writer has this desperate urge to tell all those other writers that she or he wrote this book and that it is a good one and that everyone should buy it, or at least consider buying it.
My question to this, time after time, is: WHY? Why do writers try to flog their books to other writers? Because it’s easy on such media? Because they hope to get new fans for their work? I guess those are among the reasons. I avoid things like that. On a writer’s forum/group/list people talk about their writing and stories often enough to know what they’re doing (if you pay some attention). It’s hardly any trouble to look up the work of a writer that sounds interesting (we have Google, we have Bing, we have Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and so on). Most of these options offer personal messages to ask for something more precise.
Also, most writers have a website or a weblog on which they talk about their work, their books. It’s even easy to look up the name of an author on Smashwords, Barnes&Noble or Amazon.
I may have a diagonal attitude to this. I shan’t try to sell my books to other writers who know I’m a writer. They’ll find me if they’re interested.
Yes. Coming of age. This probably sounds like a very odd title for a blog post by a writer. Still it’s something I think about at this moment, and so you’re the victims of my thoughts about it.
The reason for these thoughts is the funeral of an aunt. (Yes, writers have aunts too.) She was a very sweet woman with a heart of gold, always ready to help and care for those she loved. In many ways my aunt reminded me of my mother, who left this earthly plane more than four years ago. And that again set me to these thoughts. My mother passed away before I was writing seriously, and before I published the first little Hilda book. It’s from my mother that I inherited my love of books and reading, and subsequently (I think) the love of writing that came from that. And suddenly it feels as a serious loss that she’s not seen and never will see this ‘success’ (if I may call it so) that I have as a writer.
It’s one of these strange tricks life can play on a person. I know she’d be happy about it, and probably be proud of me as well. Probably? No. She’d be very proud. Because that is how she was.
Bye Mum. I love you.
This is not about writing and books directly. It is about cats. A few years ago I introduced cats in the Hilda the Wicked Witch series, and since then cats have become more and more fascinating to me. The Hilda fans who follow my ramblings on Facebook by now know that Obsi and Grim are no longer just fictional cat-characters, they have become real, be it in a slightly different colour-setting than in the books.
To the left you see Grimalkin, on the right is Obsidian.
Since early March 2013 these two animals live in my apartment with me, and we get along very well. In case you wonder why in the newer books (following Hilda 10) cats may play a more prominent role, or if their actions and behaviour is a bit more correct than before, these two are the reason.
Wishing you all the best, and from the cats:
Dear reader, sometimes it is hard to decide what to do next. Do you share that view? For me at this point in time the decision runs along the following:
- start with the next Hilda the Wicked Witch story (number 11);
- continue and finish “Bristol Dream”;
- continue and finish “Daniel and Rayko”, the sequel to “Bactine”;
- continue and finish a special little project for the Alexandria Publishing Group (take priority);
- continue with the Lily Marin book.
Along all that are also the preparations for Nanowrimo, the writer’s madness for November.
I already hear the Hilda fans yell that Hilda has to take priority, which of course I fully understand. Just as the Lily Marin fans will claim that Lily must take priority. Perhaps I need a decision-making device. Incidentally there is one here, right on the screen!