In the beginning, all I have is an idea.
Sometimes it’s a complete idea, and sometimes, it’s just the trace of one. Sometimes a scene appears in my mind, full blown, down to the words that are being said. One single scene and nothing more. Sometimes, all I know in that first instant are the characters’ names, and maybe a hint about what their back story might be.
Once I’ve had a taste of that idea, the fun begins. Often, I get those ideas when I’m already hip deep in another story. I usually stop and make a very fast note—and then carry on.
That’s when the magic happens. You see, for me, a story germinates like a four-day relish on the back burner of the kitchen stove. There’s just enough heat to keep it to a barely-there simmer. Like the relish, once in a while I might catch a whiff of it, but otherwise I forget about it. And all the while those characters are whispering to my subconscious, and their story is forming in the creative vault in my mind.
Then the day comes when it’s time for me to begin that story. I’m a little anal in some things, and a scatterbrain when it comes to others. I like to think that over all, I’m kind of cute. The first thing I always do is begin a new word document in the new word file that bears the title of the new project. This first document is called “Basic Concept” and could be likened to a sketch-artist’s doodle pad. I write. I write about who these characters are, what is unique about them, where they grew up, and what the influences were that helped shape them. I might even write about the time they were caught throwing spit-balls in class. If I imagined them in a scene, I write that scene, briefly, just the bare bones.
I write and write and write some more, a rambling document that admittedly would be hard for any reader to follow. And I keep writing until I know the opening line of the story. And as soon as I know that first line, I stop my rambling, go to the first page of the manuscript, and begin.
It’s not all easy sailing from there. Sometimes I get stuck. I either get stuck because I began to write too soon and don’t have a clear idea of where I’m going, or I get stuck trying to make my characters do something they’re not meant to do. Often, as I’m writing, my story shifts away from what I thought it was going to be about. That means there are moments when, if you could see me, all you would see would be me with a somewhat vacant look on my face, staring off into space, as my mind tries to plot a new course—with the input of the characters, of course.
Being a writer isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am. These stories I write are more than just words. They’re a part of me. Every single novel I’ve written has a theme. My characters are facing challenges that are realistic, taken from the annals of everyday life. They’ve survived abusive marriages, or abusive childhoods, they’ve gotten over heartache and the pain of loss. They’re dealing with emotional baggage that would be heavy for anyone to bear.
Some of these stories contain instances from my own experiences, and some from the experiences of others. But they are far more than words or even the sum total of those words, they’re a part of me.
The relationship between an author and their work is a deeply intimate one. Although I love what I do, writing is not easy. It can be painful, sometimes more painful than tearing a bandage off a particularly raw and sensitive wound.
This is why I get very upset when people steal my books, which they do when they download my work from a file sharing site for “free”. That’s money I’ll never see, although I’ve earned it. And no, I’m not rich, and yes, it does matter.
Pirating an author’s hard work is bad enough. I don’t even want to think about how I’d feel if some hack decided to steal my words by plagiarizing them. Apparently that’s been happening to others lately. Someone has taken the novel of other authors, changed a few things like names and places, and then slapped their own name on it, published it, and taken their ill gotten gains to the bank.
To the author whose heart and soul are in their work, that kind of pillaging is beyond devastating.
It is, in fact, a form of rape.