The Biggest Myth Non-Writers Believe About Writers

Before I started writing I thought writers were mysterious beings that heard a song that the rest of the world could not hear. These creatures, I thought, disappear for six months only to reappear with a book that was perfect, required no editing, and had the power to enrapture a generation.

The reality? It doesn’t work that way.


Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and I am in the middle of Creativity Inc., by Ed Catmul with Amy Wallace. It’s about leadership more than anything else but in it Mr. Catmul details some of the creative processes that Pixar Animation and Disney Animation implement to create and develop their stories.

Up is one of my favorite Pixar movies and I was shocked to discover that it’s first draft looked nothing like the finished product. Mr. Catmul explains that the bird and the title Up are the only two things that survived the first iteration of the story. The first draft was about two boys that lived in a castle in the sky.

Even Pixar’s first drafts are bad.

The process of writing a book is a lot like this. Once a first draft is done, there is a mountain of refining that takes place. The idea is usually hidden in the drivel but only through careful counsel and thoughtful consideration on the writers’ behalf can the non-fiction book be rounded into form or the fiction story be shaped into a coherent, compelling tale.

Perhaps the biggest mystery is not how writers do it but how they persevere when others may not be able to see the vision of their story.

I don’t know what possessed me to start writing. Maybe it was my Grandma Evenhouse who always had books around and stories to tell. It could have been the allure of Lowry’s Book and More in my hometown or maybe it was the college professor that told me I could be a writer, out of the blue, or the encouraging email or comment about a recent blog post, but I find myself among writers now and even call myself one.

If you are a writer and your ideas don’t come out right or you are stuck, don’t worry. Great stories take time to shape. You have to try to poke holes in them, let it fall on the page without editing, and then build it back up or mold it into something new.

If you’ve ever thought of writing, and still maintain that desire, I challenge you to start now, with the advanced knowledge that the road will be hard and perseverance is your only guide through.

Worldbuilding 101 Part 1 – History & Myth – Where Worldbuilding Begins

At Jot 5 I’ll being doing a Workshop on Worldbuilding. If this sounds uber nerdy to you please head to the previous post or patiently wait for tomorrow’s. Today is for the nerds. Or is it?

My firm belief is that great stories, whether classic literature or commercial fantasy, all go through a world construction process. Authors call it many things – research, plotting, and the like but it is all the same. We are creating a believable world that beckons our readers. Galaxie_peinture

All stories start before stories begin. To be less confusing, en medias res is Latin for “in the middle of things” and it is a common phrase we writers know. The ship has already sailed, the orphan is already orphaned, the civil war lost, the argument over, and it is from this aftermath that we start.

Where would Harry be without the Death Eaters and their previous war with the Order of the Phoenix?

Where would Oliver Twist be without the unfortunate death of his forebears?

Exactly. The happenings before our story are essential.

History can bring shame or laziness to a people. It can also produce tenacity or vengeance. It is not a ripple effect but the exact opposite, sloshing toward and interacting with the center point of it all – our story, our people, and our characters.

Whether you are writing a myth like The Simarillion or something concrete with a litany of historical facts like a history book, this is where we begin the process of formulating the culture from which our hero, heroine, or anti-hero rises. It does not have to be intricately detailed but we must know what happened before it all.

If you are a writer of fantasy or science fiction please stay tuned. We’ll talk about maps next.

What are your thoughts on this?

How do you start to build your world?