I am sure someone famous once said that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Not sure about the genius part, but in writing, the rest is certainly true. When I wrote my first novel, and I use the term ‘write’ loosely – good thing it will never see the light of day – I wasn’t short of inspiration. I had ideas for a dozen books; still do, and some have been turned into real books.
Along the way, I wrote several short stories and shared them with my friends, eager for their approval. However, I did not always get it, which puzzled me. I wrote good stuff. Okay, the stories had some grammar and word usage issues, and if you think typing perfect manuscripts on an electric typewriter and making corrections is easy, you probably didn’t have the pleasure, if that’s the right word. Life became so much easier for us writers when PCs and word processors came along.
Over drinks one evening, leafing through one of my stories, a friend told me he also planned to write a novel. I was delighted. I would have someone who would share my passion for writing and we would be able to critique and edit each other’s work. He never picked up the pen and didn’t write a thing. Why didn’t he? Probably lots of reasons, but I suspect – something I came to learn much later – he didn’t have that fire in his belly to commit himself to many lonely weeks and months in front of a writing pad and computer. Basically, he wasn’t prepared to put in the perspiration, and as we all know, there is lots of perspiration involved when you are a writer. The gnashing of teeth is a freebie.
In my early days when I got frustrated with my novel and words wouldn’t come, I diverted myself by writing a short story to clear my mind. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? You can see some of these distractions at: www.stefanvucak.com ‘Stories’. It worked for me, and along the way it also sharpened my mechanical writing skills. Back then, young and impatient to have that book done and out of the way, I was beset by too much inspiration, too many ideas clamored for my attention. Hence my detours into short stories. I haven’t written a short story in many years, and it is not likely that I will. The reason is simple: I learned to control my inspiration. I learned discipline.
So, how do you turn that inspiration into a book? My personal view is that many book reviewers are frustrated writers who never got to write anything, and hate writers who managed to produce something on principle. We all have egos that need stroking, hence the need to seek approval and acceptance. As writers, our egos are as big as our characters, but unlike our characters, our ego needs to be firmly grounded in reality. We need that fire in our belly to keep us going over the rough parts. Sadly, some of the stuff out there should have been kept in the drawer like my first novel. Okay, you have that fire, you are inspired, and keen to start writing. A reality check.
What exactly is that inspiration? When I consider a book idea, it can be several things: a beginning, an ending, a particular scene, something I read or saw somewhere; lots of things can trigger it. The idea bubble isn’t even a story skeleton. It’s just a nebulous cloud with some daylight shining through. This is where some writers make an enthusiastic leap and jump into that cloud – and fall through, of course. With only a vague notion of what they want to write, they turn on the computer and start pounding away, with predictable results. I reviewed several books…never mind. It wasn’t pretty, even though the core idea might have been worth nurturing.
Out of a swarm of ideas, one has stuck in your mind and you want to look at it more closely, which is exactly what you need to do! When inspired to write a novel, I never had the whole thing worked out in my mind. I had to take the initial idea and put some flesh around it. I needed to see if it can be turned into a book. That will mean several things. Like with my latest contemporary novel – still to be written – I first had to research the underlying technical plot elements to ensure the story was feasible, which I did. What I must to do next is start the perspiration part: write the outline. I’m still dancing around that one, thinking about characters and the plot, but I’ve been through this before. It’s simply a matter of gritting my teeth and getting on with it. See my article on how to plan and write your novel: www.stefanvucak.com/planning-and-writing-your-novel/
The bottom line with all this? The inspiration part is easy. If you are not prepared to put in the sweat that will result in a professionally produced novel, do yourself a favor. Buy a book instead. You’ll have more fun.
Stefan Vucak is an award-winning author of the sci-fi Shadow Gods series of books. His contemporary political thriller Cry of Eagles has won the coveted 2011 Readers Favorite silver medal award, and his All the Evils was the 2013 prestigious Eric Hoffer contest finalist.
What do you think of Stefan’s points about turning that idea into a book? Do you have anything to add? Feedback is always appreciated.