Stepping stones to becoming a writer.
All writers travel a long road to reach their ultimate goal, but what happens along the way? What stepping-stones do we cross to achieve our aim? For most it’s a hard journey, from trying to decide what to write, to learning how to actually get their ideas down in readable form. “Write what you know”, is a common phrase, and for the most part it’s true, at least for “realistic” fiction. But what about speculative fiction, such as sci-fi and fantasy?
Most non fantasy readers assume it’s easy to write. All you have to do is conjure up some fantastical creatures from your imagination, throw in a few swords, dragons and dungeons, and there you go. Far from it. A great deal of research goes into such work. For classical fantasy, research is needed for weaponry, horsemanship, battle tactics, etc. Even though the world and characters are products of the author’s imagination, they still need to convince the reader to suspend their disbelief and believe in the story and live the adventures of their heroes and heroines, and this means getting the “real” parts of their stories correct, in order to give them verisimilitude.
My first stepping stone, on my way to becoming a writer, was to decide what I wanted to write. I began by writing short stories, but over the course of time I realised this wasn’t enough, I needed to expand my horizons. I’d always loved fairy tales as a child, and the first fantasy novels I ever read were Alice in Wonderland and Through the looking-glass by Lewis Carrol.
As I grew older, I moved onto The Chronicles of Narnia, and even though I didn’t know it, my writing destiny was set – I would become a writer of speculative fiction. My first published novel, Land of Midnight Days, uses elements of my hometown, Liverpool, as its backdrop.
The second, Through the Gloaming, is mostly set underground, and for that I used memories from when I used to go away with my school to the Lake District. We would take day trips, some of which involved visiting, not only Lake Windermere, but also some of the caves in the area.
I remember one of them had a pool in it, of such a deep blue, I instinctively knew it was bottomless. I retained this memory and conjured up the image when writing Gloaming.
So, by using these stepping-stones, from reader to writer of short stories, to novelist, I have grown and evolved as a writer. What does the future hold? I’m not sure, but I will hopefully follow my stepping-stones onwards, ever onwards, until the time comes to stop.