I’ve been working on writing a novel since I was in my teens, and I’ve always been my worst critic. Early on, I rejected my writings as simplistic; I knew I didn’t have the life experience necessary to make the reader believe that I knew what I was writing about. As I grew older, and I saw foreign lands and cultures, experienced depression, love, heartache, and success, I continued to learn and expand my knowledge. My writing had improved,, but my imagination seemed to have deserted me. It seemed like every time I put pen to page, so to speak, I was writing a story that was derivative of something else I had read or watched. I could not even finish more than half a dozen paragraphs before giving up. I grew increasingly frustrated and tried different methods – outlines, brainstorming, critiques from friends, software – but in the end I succumbed to defeat, admitting I did not have what it takes to be a novelist.
Last night that all changed. While I sat reading The Gathering Storm, I had paused for a moment to consider the difference in writing styles between Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. I was attempting to determine what I was reading – was it Sanderson in Jordan’s voice, Jordan himself, or pure Sanderson? As I sat there, my mind lost in thought, I was hit with a bolt from the blue. It’s never happened to me before, and what came to me at that moment was not inspired by anything in Jordan or Sanderson’s prose – not derivative as it had been in the past. Rather, it was my mind adrift in abstract thought, that led me down a path that I had never traveled before.
The result was the perfect opening line for my story. Well, not totally perfect, as I went back and rewrote it later, but as Jordan would say, “it was a beginning.” From that opening line, a story began to loosely form in my mind. Within that story, a few twists and turns presented themselves and I vowed I would make sure the reader did not see them coming. I sat down and typed that opening line, and then the words began to flow.
Three hours later, I had finished the first chapter. Reluctantly I headed for bed, but I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t ideas that kept me awake, but more excitement over the fact that I had accomplished something almost without trying, that had previously been such a struggle. Maintaining that momentum will be difficult, and that first chapter will need quite a bit of editing, but I’ve overcome the biggest hurdle so far. I’ve left Bag End, so to speak. Now we’ll see if I can make it to the Buckleberry Ferry…